Uber fires exec central to Google driverless-car legal dispute

Francis Harris
May 31, 2017

Uber Technologies Inc said on Tuesday it fired the former head of its self-driving unit, Anthony Levandowski, after he failed to comply with a court order to hand over documents at the center of a legal dispute between Uber and Alphabet Inc's GOOGL.O Waymo unit.

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.

Levandowski didn't immediately respond to a phone message AP left on Tuesday asking him for comment.

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 has fired star engineer Anthony Levandowski. It said that Levandowski was sacked for cause and that he has a contractual right to correct "deficiencies" within 20 days. But it seems likely this has been coming for a long, long time, especially as Uber's self-driving vehicle has faced technical troubles as well as legal ones.

Levandowski's expertise in robot-controlled cars is the main reason that the ride-hailing company bought his startup for $680 million nine months ago. Uber has denied the accusations, but its defense has been frustrated by Mr. Levandowski's refusal to cooperate with its internal investigation or court orders to turn over documents. The company is testing autonomous cars with real passengers in Pittsburgh and elsewhere. Levandowski is the key figure in an explosive lawsuit brought against Uber by Waymo, the driverless auto maker spun out from Google parent company Alphabet. The case is murky and lacks a smoking gun, but Levandowski has been invoking his Fifth Amendment rights anyway, making an already dramatic suit much more intense.

Other reports by TheDigitalNewspaper

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