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Former Uber exec faces up to 10 years in jail over theft of trade secrets from Google



If you thought the Waymo v. Uber trial wrapped up when the companies settled early last year … well, nope.

An unsealed federal indictment Tuesday revealed 33 charges against engineer-turned-executive Anthony Levandowski, whose arraignment is set for this afternoon in San Jose. If convicted, Levandowski faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. 

Levandowski was an engineer at what was then called Project Chauffeur at Google (it later became Waymo) before he started his own autonomous truck company, Otto, in 2015. That business was quickly snatched up for $680 million by Uber, which was starting to develop its own self-driving car program. 

The indictment states that Levandowski took 14,000 files related to light sensors, or LiDAR, from Google, put them on his personal laptop, and brought them to Uber. 

Earlier this month he was charged with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets for taking those files.

The indictment is already affecting the self-driving industry. Last year, Levandowski launched a new driver assistance company called Pronto focused on truck drivers. When the charges were unsealed Tuesday, the company announced that Levandowski was no longer the CEO and Pronto’s chief safety officer would take on the role. 

“The criminal charges filed against Anthony relate exclusively to [LiDAR] and do not in any way involve Pronto’s ground-breaking technology,” the statement read. “Of course, we are fully supportive of Anthony and his family during this period.”

When Pronto first launched, Levandowski wrote a blog post that included the line, “Yes, I’m back.”

Waymo’s response to the indictment over its stolen materials was measured, calling Levandowski a “former Project Chauffeur employee.” A spokesperson said in an email, “We have always believed competition should be fueled by innovation, and we appreciate the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI on this case.”

We reached out to Uber for comment on the charges, but haven’t heard back yet. 

Back in February 2018, after four days of testimony (we heard nothing from Levandowski, who invoked the Fifth Amendment), Waymo and Uber settled, with Uber agreeing to give Google parent company Alphabet .34 percent equity, worth $245 million. 

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