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Uber self-driving
An Uber self-driving car in Pittsburgh. (Uber Photo)

Uber has fired Anthony Levandowski, the leader of the company’s autonomous vehicle technology push and a central figure in a lawsuit filed earlier this year by Google’s self-driving car spinout Waymo.

Uber confirmed the termination of Levandowski, which was first reported by The New York Times. Waymo in February sued Uber, alleging that Levandowski, a key player in Google’s self-driving car efforts, and other former Google engineers stole intellectual property on their way out the door before starting a new company called Otto that was later acquired by Uber.

The company said it pushed Levandowski to comply with Uber’s internal investigation into Waymo’s accusations, and that he missed a key deadline. Levandowski in March exercised his Fifth Amendment right in order to avoid complying with a federal judge’s demand to hand over evidence in the case.

Levandowski was heading up Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group prior to the lawsuit. He was removed from that role last month and replaced by Eric Meyhofer. Uber said Meyhofer will remain in that role.

Waymo alleges that before leaving Google, Levandowski downloaded 14,000 confidential and proprietary files related to things like circuit boards that mount on vehicles and contain “laser-based scanning and mapping technology that uses the reflection of laser beams off objects to create a real-time 3D image of the world,” according to court documents. The lawsuit alleges that several other Google employees followed Levandowski to Otto and downloaded even more confidential files, such as supplier lists and manufacturing details, before leaving the company.

The lawsuit alleges that Levandowski met with high-level Uber officials in January 2016, about two months after downloading the files. Two weeks later he left Google without notice, according to court documents, and a couple days after that, he formed Otto. Uber acquired the company approximately six months later.

Uber has steadfastly denied Waymo’s accusations, saying the claims represent “a baseless attempt to slow down a competitor.

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