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Uber Fires Executive Accused of Stealing Google's Self-Driving Car Secrets (techcrunch.com) 57

According to The New York Times, Uber has fired Anthony Levandowski, the former head of its self-driving car project who is accused of stealing some 14,000 documents from Google's Waymo and using that information as the technological basis for Uber's self-driving cars. TechCrunch reports: During the court proceedings, Levandowski exercised his Fifth Amendment rights to avoid providing testimony or handing over evidence regarding his use of proprietary data from his time at Google. Uber had previously warned that Levandowski could face consequences for his lack of compliance with his employment requirements at the company. Uber confirmed via a spokesperson that Levandowski was terminated following months of the company attempting to have him comply with and assist its own internal investigation into the matter, and had set a clear deadline for him to do so. Uber also noted that Eric Meyhofer, who stepped in when Levandowski was removed from his role leading ATG in April, will continue to lead the team and take over Levandowski's direct reports.
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Uber Fires Executive Accused of Stealing Google's Self-Driving Car Secrets

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  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2017 @04:09PM (#54513249) Homepage

    Would that mean Waymo would be free to pursue criminal charges against Levandowski? How does this substantively change how the litigation moves forward? Seems more like Stall Theater to me. We fired that guy for not cooperating in a lawsuit we didn't want him to cooperate with in the first place.

    That makes no sense.

    • Poison fruit (Score:3, Interesting)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 )

      It means that anything Uber developed based on the technology is now nullified. Google wins. Uber is just trying to not lose any more

      I wonder why Google didn't fire Eric Schmitt when he stole the iphone as an apple board member

      • Re:Poison fruit (Score:5, Informative)

        by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot.worf@net> on Tuesday May 30, 2017 @05:41PM (#54513923)

        I wonder why Google didn't fire Eric Schmitt when he stole the iphone as an apple board member

        Because Eric didn't steal anything and gave it to Google. He may have been aware of the iPhone and its general look and feel, but he took no documents, no software, nothing and gave it to Google.

        At best, all he took was in his head.

        And Apple didn't really pursue it since Apple had the iPhone all tied up in patents (design and utility). Google was certainly aware of the patents and default Android was better for it as Google deftly avoided them. Android's app launcher has been redesigned a few times to avoid the "rounded corners" patent (a design patent consisting of many items. Android has always avoided copying it exactly.).

        That's why Apple never went after Google - there is no reason to since stock Android did not violate any of Apple's patents. OEMs, however, (like Samsung's initial TouchWiz offerings) were vulnerable since they did copy the look and feel and overrode what Google did. It's why the Samsung Galaxy S was said to be an iPhone, yet no other Android device on the market was.

        • by TWX ( 665546 )

          If you remember the initial commercial Android phone, the HTC Dream sold as the T-Mobile G1 in the US, it was fairly substantially different than Apple's physical design. Slide-open with physical keyboard, four buttons, physical trackball, curved bottom section, plus it was a lot thicker than an iPhone.

          Simply rounding-off corners in-general is probably not enough, and I have to wonder if even using the same arc-length would really be enough.

          • by Cederic ( 9623 )

            physical trackball

            Fuck fidget spinners, that trackball was all the tactile feedback I ever desired.

            It was smooth and yet textured, truly a wonder to caress. I may need to hunt down my old G1 and have a fondle.

        • by Megol ( 3135005 )

          Patents using features that had been used in other products years before I'll note. What Apple really "invented" were the realization that style is more important than utility. IMHO of course (well not the patent part).

    • Would that mean Waymo would be free to pursue criminal charges against Levandowski? How does this substantively change how the litigation moves forward? Seems more like Stall Theater to me. We fired that guy for not cooperating in a lawsuit we didn't want him to cooperate with in the first place.

      That makes no sense.

      Levandowski took the fifth when asked to testify in court. The court ordered Uber to do everything in their power to convince Levandowski to testify. Uber had to threaten him with the strongest punishment they had available, terminating his employment. They threatened, he didn't comply, they had to carry out their threat.

      That's one perspective, anyway, and the one that Uber is presenting to the court. They did what they could, so they can't be held in contempt. There are other possibilities, but I'll leav

      • Levandowski took the fifth when asked to testify in court. The court ordered Uber to do everything in their power to convince Levandowski to testify. Uber had to threaten him with the strongest punishment they had available, terminating his employment. They threatened, he didn't comply, they had to carry out their threat.

        Well, to me, it seems that Uber wants to fire Levandowski in the first place once they have been caught (sued). Why would a company want to hold/employ someone who is involve in a law suit, especially the law suit is about the product involved with the person who is leading the development? You may want to fight for the person if and only if you have a clear case that the person did nothing wrong and/or illegal. However, it is not the case here. Uber has been wanting to distant itself from the person, and t

    • Waymo isn't a prosecutor and cannot file criminal charges - only the district attorney (or US attorney for federal cases) can do that. Waymo has always been free to file a report with the police or FBI. Levandowski pleading the Fifth means that he won't implicate himself or face perjury charges.

      I think this will delay the litigation slightly while the judge leans on Levandowski to produce the documents in question.

      What would be interesting is whether Levandowski will be granted immunity from criminal
    • It's in response to this story [slashdot.org]. Uber had to 'return' stolen files. If one of the employees who had files refuses to return them, then that employee needs to be fired. The employee can't be forced to turn them over, because that would be self-incrimination.....however, Uber needs to prove that they've gotten rid of those files and won't be using them anymore. IANAL but that is my understanding.
    • There was some perceptions of the timeline that Levandowski was in discussions (had emails ) with Uber prior to leaving Waymo.
      It could be implied (and will be argued by Waymo) that Levandowski's founding of Otto was a red herring with the intended goal of Uber acquisition bringing stolen Waymo code with him.
      It does not change the fact that Waymo will still be able to hit Uber with a Cease and Desist order for the Uber self driving technology. Uber will be years behind to rewriting the code free of Waymo
    • by SLi ( 132609 )

      It's more nuanced than that.

      My take, after having read the court documents, is that Uber would not have wanted to fire Levandowski, but the court effectively compelled it to.

      The issue here is effectively a discovery dispute. Discovery is a process that happens early in a lawsuit where the parties get to request relevant documents from the other parties, as well as (in some cases) take depositions of the other parties, i.e. get them to answer relevant-to-the-lawsuit questions under oath. Here, Waymo sued bot

  • by david.emery ( 127135 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2017 @04:09PM (#54513261)

    It's hard to believe Uber didn't know what he was bringing with him (and the legal problems that could cause. Of course, there were also ethical issues, but that's not part of Uber's vocabulary, apparently.)

    • by lbmouse ( 473316 )
      Good to see that I'm not alone in getting the feeling the Uber is a sleazeball company with the ethics and direction of a one legged hooker.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Hookers are more ethical than CEOs. (especially Uber's)

      • When I was a kid, the school bus drove by a one legged hooker almost every morning, at about dawn. That was one hard working hooker. We were little shits.

  • by Lije Baley ( 88936 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2017 @04:19PM (#54513341)

    Very sad to see Anthony squander his talent with such a naÃve (at best) move. Navigating the world of business turned out to be a grander challenge.

  • by Infiniti2000 ( 1720222 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2017 @04:27PM (#54513407)
    I don't think his claim on the 5th for the documents will stand. They aren't his testimony and thus aren't protected under the 5th. If pressed, he could get obstruction of justice for it.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If the court believes he has the documents and has probable cause, they can issue a warrant to find them. If they can't find them, they can't compel him to produce the documents. He doesn't have to be a witness against himself. That's the fourth and fifth amendments at work.

      • That's not remotely the case. There are many circumstances in which someone can be compelled to testify - in fact, the only time you *can't* be compelled to testify is if it's against yourself. The lawsuit is against Uber. Uber can be compelled to produce documents, and so can the people around them if a court can be convinced. Levandowski isn't Uber. And even if it is against yourself, you can absolutely be compelled to hand over documents and other evidence, even if it proves your guilt.

        Even in a criminal

  • Uber, Waymo, Alphabet, Otto? How about a fucking real name for a company?
    • by LiENUS ( 207736 )

      Otto is likely a reference to Nikolaus Otto, inventer of the 'Otto cycle engine' also known as the 4 stroke internal combustion engine in most vehicles today.

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