Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was reportedly aware that the company's self-driving car chief at the time had stolen secrets from Google.
As the Uber-Waymo lawsuit keeps unraveling, a new court filing reveals that Kalanick found out last year that Anthony Levandowski, the engineer who oversaw Uber's self-driving car project, had stolen information from Google.
For those unfamiliar with the matter, here's a brief summary. Levandowski previously worked at Waymo, Google's self-driving car division, and then left in 2016 and ended up leading Uber's driverless car project. Waymo sued Uber claiming that Levandowski stole trade secrets on his way out. Levandowski co-founded startup Otto, which Uber acquired for $680 million.
In the lawsuit, Waymo alleges that Levandowski and Uber conspired to have the engineer snatch more than 14,000 proprietary files from Google, including lidar technology designs that are essential to how a self-driving car understands its surroundings.
Levandowski is not a defendant in this lawsuit and he has refused to testify, invoking his fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination.
Uber, meanwhile, argues that it developed its automation technology without notable contributions from Levandowski. The engineer no longer leads Uber's self-driving car project, and Kalanick is no longer Uber's CEO.
Kalanick Knew Levandowski Stole Google Secrets
Kalanick resigned as Uber CEO on Monday, June 19, amid mounting pressure from shareholders who argued that the company would be better off without his aggressive leadership style.
According to a report from Bloomberg, a new court filing alleges that Kalanick told Levandowski back in March 2016 that the company did not want the information he stole from Google, and he shouldn't bring that data to Uber. Levandowski reportedly told Kalanick that he destroyed the materials.
This new tidbit of information came to light on Wednesday, June 21, as the Waymo-Uber lawsuit progresses. Along with sexual harassment issues and other Uber problems, this lawsuit was also among the reasons why Uber shareholders called for Kalanick's resignation.
Waymo argues that since Uber postponed the disclosure of the exchange that was scheduled for June 5, and it also knew that Levandowski destroyed the discs, Uber should have to prove to U.S. District Judge William Alsup, presiding over the case, that it should not be held in contempt for violating orders to disclose information.
Uber Scandals Worsen
As companies are racing to develop viable self-driving car technology, this case is crucial to how things will unfold. While we're still years away from seeing self-driving cars commercially available and roaming the streets worldwide, the driverless car industry is expected to make billions of dollars, and companies are competing to get a headstart.
Uber is already in troubled waters after a series of scandals, culminating with its CEO's resignation amid a company-wide executive exodus. This new revelation that Kalanick was aware Levandowski possessed information about Google's self-riving car developments now adds more fuel to the fire.
It will be interesting to see how Uber will manage to overcome this turmoil and recover from these scandals, but things don't look too good for now.