Anthony Levandowski is at the center of a major lawsuit from the Google affiliate, Waymo, against Uber. Before his recent demotion, his autonomous vehicle technology startup known as Otto, was acquired by Uber for $680 million. However, Waymo claims that Levandowski downloaded thousands of confidential files before leaving the company. Uber will probably fire the engineer, and they are trying to resolve the lawsuit in private court, though their recent request was denied.
Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, attempted to make friends with the lead engineers and several executives in Google’s autonomous vehicle group. He befriended Levandowksi and allegedly talked for hours about the future of driving and autonomy. An anonymous source said the men even took long walks together, and it is possible that secrets were exchanged. Google claims that Levandowski left the company in 2016 to start Otto and enter into an executive position at Uber and share the company’s secrets.
Google started openly testing their first autonomous vehicle prototype in mid-2014, and Uber’s CEO was one of the first to see it. The rivalry will only intensify with this latest scandal, but the balance is tipping towards Google. With Uber’s inability to make a profit, being first to market in the ride-sharing world with autonomous vehicles is huge. This lawsuit could cripple their long-term plans and viability as a company.