News: Uber Fires Driverless Engineer at Center of Waymo Dispute

Uber Fires Driverless Engineer at Center of Waymo Dispute

It wasn't too long ago that Uber threatened to fire star engineer Anthony Levandowski. Eleven days to be exact. If Levandowski didn't turn over the documentation he allegedly stole from Google's autonomous car division, Uber informed Levandowski that they would take "adverse employment action." Today, The New York Times reported the ride-sharing firm has delivered on that threat. In a memo sent to employees Tuesday morning, Uber announced Lewandowski's official departure from the company "effective immediately."

"Over the last few months Uber has provided significant evidence to the court to demonstrate that our self-driving technology has been built independently," Angela Padilla, a Uber general counsel for employment and litigation, wrote in an email to employees published by The New York Times. "Over that same period, Uber has urged Anthony to fully cooperate in helping the court get to the facts and ultimately helping to prove our case."

The firing comes as no surprise to those following the court battle between Uber and Waymo. Levandowski had previously asserted his Fifth Amendment rights when questioned about his role in allegedly stealing the documents, and had not cooperated in turning those documents over. This apparent refusal by Levandowski lead to Uber's ultimatum that he comply with the judge's order.

What remains to be seen is whether or not the removal of Levandowski leads to a conclusion of this battle between the autonomous driving pioneers. Or if this maneuver by Uber today will prolong the case indefinitely. Given that Waymo's sibling, GV, has invested a significant chunk of money into Uber; it would seem silly for the two companies to continue their court battle. Especially given how the Judge has ruled thus far on Waymo's otherwise flimsy claims of patent theft.

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