Uber fires autonomous car researcher involved in lawsuit

Uber fires executive accused of stealing Google's self-driving car secrets

Uber fires Anthony Levandowski, self-driving car executive at heart of Google lawsuit

Google's self-driving auto division, Waymo, sued Uber in February, claiming that Levandowski downloaded more than 14,000 files while he was a Google employee, including trade secrets.

Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) in February filed a lawsuit against Uber that claims the company and Levandowski, who once helped lead the internet giant's own autonomous vehicle program, had colluded in stealing trade secrets. A few days earlier, the same judge referred the case to the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco to determine whether there was any criminal wrongdoing.

Uber said it had pressed Levandowski to comply with an internal investigation for months and would not wait for the issue to wind its way through the judicial system.

Uber executive Eric Meyhofer, who took charge of the self-driving auto unit in April, will continue in that role, the company said. It said that Levandowski was sacked for cause and that he has a contractual right to correct "deficiencies" within 20 days. Levandowski's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The deal was reported to have a price tag of $680 million. "Footnote 9 of the Order specifically states that 'in complying with this order, Uber has no excuse under the Fifth Amendment to pull any punches as to Levandowski'".

But instead of cooperating with the suit, Levandowski instead pleaded the Fifth Amendment, which protects individuals from self-incrimination.

According to Uber, Levandowski was let go after failing to meet a deadline to comply with the court's investigation into his alleged theft of 14,000 confidential files from Waymo.

In mid-May, US District Court Judge William Alsup issued a partial injunction that fell short of the complete shutdown of Uber's self-driving auto efforts that Alphabet lawyers had requested.

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