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March 17, 2017

Former Waymo Employee Says He Did Not Steal Files, He Was Working From Home

Otto image

The former Waymo employee accused of stealing company secrets to take with him to Uber-owned Otto has broken his silence.

Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car unit, is suing Uber in federal court after accusing the high-tech transportation firm and its subsidiary Otto of stealing elements of its lidar laser sensor technology.

Anthony Levandowski, who left Google’s self-driving car unit to start Otto, says there is a simple explanation for downloading Waymo’s files: he wanted to work from home.

Anthony Levandowski

Anthony Levandowski

According to a Bloomberg report, Levandowski, during a company meeting, described Uber’s lidar technology as “clean,” meaning it was not stolen from Waymo. He said the only reason he had downloaded the files was to work from home.

Some former colleagues told Bloomberg that even if Levandowski did take the technology, Google should not be suing over it. “Whatever Google may say about him stealing lidar trade secrets, he was the lidar team at Google,” an unamed person who worked at Waymo told Bloomberg. “This is like the Swiss patent office suing Einstein for inventing the theory of relativity while he worked there.”

Waymo, as part of its lawsuit, is accusing Levandowski of downloading 14,000 “confidential and proprietary design” files relating to the company’s “lidar and circuit board” before resigning as the technical lead on Alphabet’s self-driving car division to co-found Otto with Lior Ron, former product lead of Google Maps; former Google robotics program lead Claire Delaunay and Don Burnette, a former Google software engineer.

Waymo, in a blog post, alleged Levandowski searched for and installed specialized software on his company-issued laptop.

The lawsuit, which is being handled by U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco, may go to arbitration.

In a court appearance Thursday, an Uber lawyer told Alsup he planned to file a petition to compel arbitration, citing an agreement signed by Levandowski while he worked at Waymo, Reuters is reporting.

Arbitration would be a more private and less expensive way to resolve the dispute.


Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.