Engineer Admits Stealing Self-Driving Car Secrets

Anthony Levandowski worked for Google, then started his own company
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2020 2:29 PM CDT
Engineer Admits Stealing Self-Driving Car Secrets
Anthony Levandowski has pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets from Google.   (AP Photo/Michael Liedtke)

An engineer is facing a prison sentence after pleading guilty to one count of stealing trade secrets from Google. Anthony Levandowski, who worked in the self-driving division, admitted to downloading thousands of files to his personal laptop, CNBC reports. One of the files was an update on the self-driving program. "I downloaded this file with the intent to use it for the benefit of someone other than Google," Levandowski said in court documents filed Thursday in San Francisco. He launched a startup involving self-driving trucks after leaving Google that was later taken over by Uber, which has since fired Levandowski. Prosecutors dropped 32 counts against Levandowski in his plea deal, per the Verge; he could receive a sentence of 24 to 30 months in prison on the other count.

Levandowski's theft started a long court battle between Uber and Waymo, the Alphabet unit that evolved from Google's self-driving division. Google sued, and Uber paid up more than $244 million in a settlement. Levandowski also lost an arbitration case in which he was accused of violating his Google contract by poaching engineers. He's since sought bankruptcy protection after being ordered to pay Google $179 million in that case. Levandowski takes responsibility for the theft from Google, his lawyer told the Washington Post on Thursday. "Mr. Levandowski is a young man with enormous talents and much to contribute" to the development of artificial intelligence and automated vehicles, he said. "We hope that this plea will allow him to move on with his life and focus his energies where they matter most." (Levandowski presented his vision for cars of the future in 2009.)

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