Former Google self-driving car engineer charged with theft of trade secrets

A Waymo (owned by Google) autonomous vehicle. Former Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski was charged with 33 counts of trade-secret theft Tuesday. File Photo courtesy Waymo

Aug. 28 (UPI) — Federal authorities charged a former Google self-driving car engineer with 33 counts of trade-secret theft Tuesday.

Justice Department officials announced the indictment against Anthony Levandowski, 39, based on 33 pieces of information related to Waymo — the self-driving car unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet — deemed “reasonably protected” and “of economic value” that he downloaded before leaving the company in 2016.

Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

“I don’t want to imply that we would be seeking 330 years,” U.S. Attorney David Anderson said. “All of us are free to move from job to job. What we cannot do is stuff our pockets on the way out the door.”

Levandowski surrendered at the federal courthouse in San Jose on Tuesday. His lawyers said they would fight the charges.

“This case rehashes claims already discredited in a civil case that settled more than a year and a half ago,” they said. “The downloads in question occurred while Anthony was still working at Google — when he and his team were authorized to use the information.”

After leaving Google with the downloads, Levandowski started his own company called Otto that was acquired by Uber for $680 million within a few months.

In February 2018, Uber agreed to pay Waymo $245 million in stock to settle a suit in which Waymo alleged Levandowski took 14,000 confidential documents, including some that were pertinent to Uber’s development of its own self-driving vehicle technology.

Levandowski was fired from Uber in 2017 for failing to cooperate with investigators in the original trade-secrets case and started a new company called Pronto last year. On Tuesday, Pronto announced the company’s chief safety officer, Robbie Miller, will take over for Levandowski as CEO.


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