News: Uber Engineer Officially Booted from Their Driverless Program by No-Nonsense Judge

Uber Engineer Officially Booted from Their Driverless Program by No-Nonsense Judge

Engineer Anthony Levandowski has officially been kicked off Uber's driverless program by a judge as the company's legal war with Waymo continues.

Uber's former autonomous vehicle lead was barred from developing Uber's driverless tech as a result of a court mandate on Monday. Judge William Alsup of the Federal District Court in San Francisco was on the cusp of issuing an injunction against their autonomous car program before deciding to oust Levandowski, according to the New York Times.

This doesn't come as much of a surprise for those of us who have been following the Waymo/Uber fiasco here at Driverless. Alphabet's driverless division has accused former Google staffer Levandowski of stealing 14,000 confidential LiDAR-related documents, which resulted in the February lawsuit.

Waymo accused Uber and Levandowski of LiDAR-related data theft. Image by Waymo/YouTube

This week signaled a welcome turn of events for Waymo, who the judge stated previously that they had failed to provide a "smoking gun." Judge Alsup's ruling this week indicates that things have changed:

Waymo L.L.C. has shown compelling evidence that its former star engineer, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 confidential files from Waymo immediately before leaving his employment there.

— Judge William Alsup

It's not just Levandowski whose knee-deep in hot water though. Things just keep going from bad to worse for Travis Kalanick's company as a result. Uber may face a criminal probe as a result of the case which would mean they're investigated for wrongdoing in lieu of just civil.

Kalanick is in big trouble. Image by Adam Tinworth/Flickr

Last week, Judge Alsup referred the case to the US Attorney after rejecting the ride-sharing company's plea for a private arbitrator. He explained that "the court takes no position on whether a prosecution is or is not warranted, a decision entirely up to the United States Attorney.

It's unclear what direction this case takes from here, but it's really not looking great for Uber. If their autonomous vehicle program is shut down, or worse, some executives go to jail, it could be the end for them. Waymo no doubt thinks so, as just today they also announced a team up with Uber's archnemesis, Lyft. Clearly, Alphabet knows Uber is down and is now going for the knockout blow.

Cover image by UC Berkley Events / YouTube

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