Uber says the the engineer who until recently oversaw the company’s self-driving car project promised the company he would not bring proprietary information over from his former employer, new court documents filed Wednesday show.
The filings lay out a timeline as to which Uber employees knew about the actions of the company’s former self-driving leader, Anthony Levandowski, who joined Uber after it acquired his autonomous truck startup Otto. Levandowski previously worked at Google’s self-driving car program, which spun off into a new company under Alphabet, called Waymo. Waymo sued Uber in February, alleging that Levandowski stole its trade secrets, now benefitting Uber.
“No one at Uber ever asked Levandowski to download or take Google information or endorsed him doing so,” Uber’s attorneys wrote in a court filing. “In his employment agreement with Uber, Levandowski also agreed to “represent and
warrant to the Company that you have returned or destroyed all property and confidential information belonging to any prior employer.”
On Wednesday, Uber’s lawyers said the lawsuit filing in February was the “first time that anyone at Uber learned that Levandowski may have engaged in improper downloading and theft of Google information as alleged by Waymo.” Last week, a court filing revealed that Uber said Levandowski told Uber employees – including former chief executive Travis Kalanick, who resigned earlier this month – that he had found five discs containing Google information in his home. But Kalanick told him that Uber didn’t want the Google information, and advised against bringing the discs to Uber, according to court documents. Levandowski later told Uber he had destroyed the discs.
Uber fired Levandowski in May. The company said that he had for months refused to comply with the its investigation into Waymo’s claims. Levandowski has pleaded the Fifth Amendment in an effort to avoid incriminating himself should the case become a criminal matter. US District Judge William Alsup, the judge presiding over the case, referred it to federal prosecutors on May 11. Alsup said in a court order in May that Waymo’s self-driving car secrets may have “seeped” into Uber’s designs. Waymo has gone so far as to allege in court that Otto was founded as a ruse to help Uber steal its technology.
Throughout court proceedings, Uber has maintained that Waymo’s information has not crossed into its systems. The ride-hail giant has called its own LiDAR systems – the self-driving technology at hand in the case – “fundamentally different” from Waymo’s.
“Uber never used any Google trade secrets or patented technology in the development of
the technology at issue in this case,” the ride-hail giant’s lawyers wrote in a court document fled Wednesday. “No Uber employee is aware of Levandowski ever using any Google proprietary
information in the performance of his duties at Ottomotto or Uber.”