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Uber Issues Warning to Levandowski
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Anthony Levandowski

Summary: Uber has sent a request to employee Anthony Levandowski to hand over any documents from his time at Waymo or be fired.

In an effort to protect its assets, ride-hailing company Uber has given an ultimatum to executive Anthony Levandowski, the former Waymo employee. Uber is requiring that Levandowski hand over documents from his time at the self-driving-car firm Waymo, owned by Alphabet, which is the parent company to Google as well.

  
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Levandowski worked at Waymo before leaving to form his own self-driving-truck company, Otto, which was then bought out by Uber for $680 million. He helped develop autonomous vehicle technology while at Waymo.

Waymo and Alphabet are now suing Uber, claiming that Levandowski illegally downloaded their trade secrets and intellectual property before leaving the company. They are specifically referring to lidar, a technology used so that autonomous vehicles can “see” and they believe he downloaded over 14,000 files. Uber denies any wrong doing or knowledge of using their technology.

Levandowski has refused to let the devices that could contain the files be searched, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. He removed himself from running the department at Uber working on lidar systems. When Uber received the latest court order to return documents taken from Waymo, they were forced to leave Levandowski with the threat of termination if he didn’t cooperate.

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In a statement prepared by Uber general counsel Salle Yoo, the company said to Levandowski, “We understand that this letter requires you to turn over information wherever located, including but not limited to, your personal devices, and to waive any Fifth Amendment protection you may have. While we have respected your personal liberties, it is our view that the Court’s Order requires us to make these demands of you. If you do not agree to comply with all of the requirements set forth herein, or if you fail to comply in a material manner, then Uber will take adverse employment action against you, which may include termination of your employment and such termination would be for Cause.”

His lawyers say the demand by Uber violates his constitutional rights. They stated the order by the court to require Uber to force him to deliver documents was “an act by the judicial branch of our federal government compelling an individual to choose between preserving his livelihood and preserving his constitutional rights. Nearly fifty years of Supreme Court precedent forbid the government from putting an individual to such an unconstitutionally coercive choice.”



Judge William Alsup is overseeing the case. He previously tipped of the U.S. attorney’s office to a potential criminal investigation, which is something very uncommon for judge’s to do.

Uber is near its breaking point. A round of bad news internationally and within the country is forcing the company get creative. CEO Travis Kalanick knows that Uber needs to be first to the self-driving-car technology. He said, “If we are not tied for first, then the person who is in first, or the entity that’s in first, then rolls out a ride-sharing network that is far cheaper or far higher-quality than Uber’s, then Uber is no longer a thing.”

Do you think Levandowski should be required to turn over any documents from his time at Waymo? Tell us in the comments below.

To learn more about Uber’s troubles, read these articles:

Photo: trucks.com



 

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