Cab-hailing app Uber Warns an Engineer who ‘stole’ Self-Driving Technology

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Uber cab. VOA

New York, May 20, 2017: Cab-hailing app Uber has warned an engineer who allegedly stole trade secrets and self-driving car technology from Google parent company Alphabet’s unit Waymo to comply with court orders or risk being fired.

Uber issued a warning letter to Anthony Levandowski, saying it would take “adverse employment action against” him if he fails to comply the court’s orders, TechCrunch reported on Saturday.

This came after Waymo argued that discovery in the case has been held up by Levandowski refusing to answer questions related to the alleged theft of proprietary data.

“Levandowski has repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment in the case, citing the potential for criminal action that could lead to self-incrimination,” the report said.

Last week, a judge ordered that Uber “exercise the full extent of (its) corporate, employment, contractual and other authority” to force Levandowski to return any downloaded materials to Waymo.

Following that, Uber sent a letter to Levandowski giving him a choice between “deny(ing) ever having taken any downloaded materials from Google” or hand over any materials he might have taken from Google.

If he failed to comply, he would risk termination of his employment.

Google’s self-driving car company Waymo in February filed a lawsuit against Uber for allegedly stealing trade secrets and technology from it.

The lawsuit, filed against Uber’s self-driving vehicle unit Otto, argued that former Waymo manager Levandowski took information when he left the company and later co-founded Otto in January 2016.

“We uncovered evidence that Otto and Uber have taken and are using key parts of Waymo’s self-driving technology. Today, we’re taking legal action against Otto and its parent company Uber for misappropriating Waymo trade secrets and infringing our patents,” Waymo wrote in a blog post.

The company said it found that six weeks before his resignation, Levandowski downloaded over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various hardware systems, including designs of Waymo’s custom-built “Light Detection and Ranging” (LiDAR) and circuit board.

“To gain access to Waymo’s design server, Levandowski searched for and installed specialised software onto his company-issued laptop. Once inside, he downloaded 9.7GB of Waymo’s highly confidential files and trade secrets, including blueprints, design files and testing documentation,” the company noted.

Levandowski copied the data to an external drive. He later wiped and reformatted the laptop in an attempt to erase forensic fingerprints. (IANS)