The judge presiding over Waymo’s lawsuit against Uber is calling the actions of the man at the heart of the case “highly suspicious.”
U.S. District Judge William Alsup on Monday ruled that Uber must officially remove former Alphabet employee Anthony Levandowski as head of its autonomous vehicle program.
Although Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car division, was unable to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Levandowski did anything illegal, the judge appeared to be persuaded that something underhanded did indeed occur.
Waymo, in its lawsuit, is alleging former employee Anthony Levandowski downloaded 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 found Otto — the self-driving transport company that, months later, was acquired by Uber for $680 million.
In his ruling, the judge wrote that Waymo “made a strong showing” that Levandowski did indeed take the files, likely “to have them available to consult on behalf of Otto and Uber.”
Alsup ruled that Uber must hand over a timeline of events from the time Levandowski came on board as well as “ensure that its employees return 14,000-plus pilfered files to their rightful owner.”
It did not all go Waymo’s way, however. Alsup said Uber can continue to operate its self-driving vehicle program in the three states where it is already running.
“We are pleased with the court’s ruling that Uber can continue building and utilizing all of its self-driving technology, including our innovation around LiDAR,” an Uber spokeswoman said in a statement. “We look forward to moving toward trial and continuing to demonstrate that our technology has been built independently from the ground up.”
Waymo has yet to comment on the ruling.
Uber’s lawyers obviously anticipated Alsup’s ruling because Levandowski stepped aside as the firm’s Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) chief last month.
Alsup last week called for a federal investigation into the trade secret theft case. It will be up to the Department of Justice if it will open an inquiry into the matter.