Anthony Levandowski, the former boss of Google's self-driving car program, invoked his Fifth Amendment right in a lawsuit alleging he stole thousands of files and IP from the firm's spin-off business Waymo, which focuses on self-driving car technology. Levandowski is currently the VP of engineering at Uber where he heads the company's autonomous vehicle program.
Waymo claims Levandowski took 14,000 of Google's files before he went on to found his own autonomous company called Otto. His company was later acquired by Uber, the popular ride-sharing service, for a cool $680 million. The acquisition came just seven months after Levandowski parted ways with Google.
Lawyers for Levandowski said he broadly asserted his Fifth Amendment rights because of the "potential for criminal action." The Fifth Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights and protects a person from having to testify against themselves in a criminal case. This is often referred to as "pleading the Fifth."
Here is what it says in full:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In addition to being accused of stealing around 9.7 gigabytes of files from Google's Waymo program, the company also alleges that Levandowski poached employees before he left, and then colluded with Uber to use the stolen technology in its own self-driving efforts. Waymo has asked the court to issue a temporary injunction on Uber's autonomous vehicle program.
The lawsuit calls into question what role, if any, Levandowski will have at Uber in the future. While he has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights, the judge told Uber that has the right to issue an ultimatum—cooperate or be fired. Either way, Uber intends to show the court that its autonomous technology was not stolen from Waymo.
This is yet another PR hit for Uber, which has already taken several. Just last week, Uber President Jeff Jones left the firm saying, "the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber."
Uber has also made headlines for using special software to evade local regulators and other controversies.
Thumbnail Image Source: Wikimedia Commons (Dllu)