Uber threatens to fire engineer involved in Waymo lawsuit


Complying with a court order, Uber has given one of its top self-driving auto engineers an ultimatum - hand over any confidential Waymo files in his possession, or risk being fired from his job.

According to a court filing, Uber told Levandowski that he must comply with an order to return Waymo documents or face possible termination. The ride-hailing giant has said Levandowski isn't a main actor in its efforts to develop a viable LiDAR-a key piece of autonomous driving tech that essentially allows the auto to "see"-and has since removed him from the top of the self-driving program".

Uber has already demoted Levandowski, and removed him from any work involving Lidar systems at Uber.

Waymo, a self-driving vehicle company started by Google, alleges Levandowski downloaded 14,000 documents containing its trade secrets before he founded the startup that he sold to Uber. He abruptly resigned from Waymo in January 2016 and launched an autonomous trucking company, Otto, which Uber acquired in August that year.

Uber has called Waymo's claims "baseless" and argues that its technology is "fundamentally different" from Waymo's. The gist? Comply with the court's orders or risk being terminated.

Earlier on Thursday, a US District Judge ruled last week that Levandowski's use of the Fifth Amendment does not prevent Uber from firing him and that the company should not hold anything back in requiring him to reveal more details on the subject of the suspected stolen files.

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While Levandowski isn't a defendant in the suit, Uber says the dispute doesn't belong in court because the engineer's contract with Waymo contained a broad provision to resolve any disputes in arbitration. At the advice of his own lawyer, Levandowski opted to broadly assert his Fifth Amendment rights because of the "potential for legal action".

Via TechCrunch, the letter, which was sent May 15, requested that Levandowski either confirm he never took documents from Waymo or that he hand over any documents within his possession. As a condition of your employment at Uber, you must comply with all of the requirements set forth in this letter.

"Until then, we insist that you do everything in your power to assist us in complying with the order", Yoo added.

"We understand that this letter requires you to turn over information wherever located, including but not limited to, your personal devices, and to waive any Fifth Amendment protection you may have", Yoo wrote.

You can check out the motion from Levandowski's attorneys and the letter from Yoo below.

"This letter confirms that you are (and always have been) prohibited from consulting, copying, or otherwise using any downloaded materials for any reason or goal whatsoever, including, without limitation, any activities undertaken with respect to your employment at Uber", Woo wrote.