Waymo Expansions Mesa, Arizona

Early last year, Waymo reached a nearly quarter billion dollar settlement with Uber that ended an ongoing trial over stolen self-driving technology. Federal prosecutors today charged former Google and Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski with theft of the former company’s trade secrets.

According to the New York Times, Levandowski was charged by the US Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of California this morning. He was an early employee on Google’s self-driving car program, which later became Waymo, but frequently clashed with management toward the end of his employment over the slower rate of progress.

Before leaving Google, today’s compliant reiterates how he downloaded 14,000 files related to self-driving tech, including schematics related to LiDAR sensors that allow cars to “see” the world. He then formed a startup named Otto, which was later purchased by Uber. Some of that technology appeared in Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group that Levandowski led, before being fired.

The February 2018 settlement helps ensure that Waymo’s “highly confidential” IP is not used by Uber’s competing self-driving effort currently or in the future. Alphabet also received 0.34% of Uber stock under an older $72 billion valuation.

The judge presiding over Waymo v. Uber referred the case to federal prosecutors, which led to today’s development. The 33 counts relate to “theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from Google.” The NYT notes a maximum of 10 years in prison for Levandowski and a $250,000 penalty for every count.

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About the Author

Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: abner@9to5g.com