Uber fires Levandowski amid Waymo self-driving dispute


Levandowski's former employer, Alphabet's Waymo self-driving division, has accused him of stealing trade secrets and downloading more than 14,000 documents before he left.

The Uber engineer at the center of the company's litigation with Waymo, Anthony Levandowski, has been fired.

Uber has fired the head of its self-driving auto unit, Anthony Levandowski, amid the continuing fallout from the engineer's alleged theft of trade secrets from his former employer, Google.

But instead of cooperating with the suit, Levandowski instead pleaded the Fifth Amendment, which protects individuals from self-incrimination.

Uber in April removed Mr. Levandowski from its driverless-car program.

Almost two weeks ago, Uber's General Counsel Salle Yoo warned Levandowski that the company would take adverse employment action including termination of his employment if he fails to comply with a court order to return all Waymo documents related to its self-driving technology.

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Uber has long denied the accusations. Yoo writes that Levandowski's failure to comply with the court order constitutes a potential "breach" of the employment agreement.

Uber confirmed via a spokesperson that Levandowski was terminated following months of the company attempting to have him comply with and assist its own internal investigation into the matter, and had set a clear deadline for him to do so.

The New York Times reported Levandowski's exit earlier on Tuesday, citing an internal email sent to employees.

Levandowski was sacked "for cause", according to a copy of the termination letter obtained by the Washington Post, and he has 20 days to contest the decision if he so chooses.

Earlier in May, a federal judge formally blocked Levandowski from all Lidar-related work at the company. Until now the company had defended and protected Levandowski, even as a district judge became increasingly frustrated with his decision to not turn over key documents.

As a condition of his hiring, Levandowski was awarded more than $250 million in Uber stock. It is dealing with a sexual harassment investigation internally and is the subject of a criminal probe over a tool it built to help drivers dodge law enforcement in certain cities.