Uber Fires Driverless-Car Executive at the Center of Google Legal Battle

Uber Fires Driverless-Car Executive at the Center of Google Legal Battle

Uber Fires Driverless-Car Executive at the Center of Google Legal Battle

Uber released an internal email to employees today, informing them that the company fired Anthony Levandowski, a VP of technology and a lead engineer in the company's self-driving vehicle.

In the same order, Levandowski was also banned from working on research related to LIDAR, a critical component of Uber's self-driving technology.

Uber has followed through on threats to fire Levandowski, a star autonomous auto researcher whose hiring touched off a bitter legal fight with Waymo, the former self-driving vehicle arm of Google.

Uber has denied any wrongdoing, but Levandowski has invoked his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination.

The letter also revealed that Uber required Levandowski to have "returned or destroyed all property and confidential information belonging to any prior employer" as a condition of his employment. But it may have been a necessary step after William Alsup, the federal judge overseeing the case, partly granted an injunction that Waymo had sought against Uber and instructed Uber to do whatever it could to ensure compliance, even if that meant firing Levandowski. In September, a nervous-looking Levandowski presided over the the public debut of Uber's self-driving cars in Pittsburgh.

Mr. Levandowski was sacked on Tuesday.

Uber General Counsel Salle Yoo told Levandowski in a letter filed in court by Levandowski's lawyers that he hasn't complied with Uber's requests to cooperate in obeying the judge's order to return the documents. Uber bought the company in 2016 for $680 million. In the NY magazine profile, telling his coworkers he was glad that Uber didn't have "the first death" due to self-driving vehicles. Uber wants to develop a fleet of self-driving cars so its service eventually won't have to rely on people to pick up passengers. Uber set a deadline deadline for him to comply, but he didn't meet it.

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