The US Attorney's Office announced this afternoon that it is charging former Google Self-Driving Car Project engineer, Anthony Levandowski with 33 counts of trade secrets theft.
This stems from the lawsuit that Waymo – the spun out version of Google's Self-Driving Car Project – filed against Uber in 2017.
Apparently, Levandowski had been working on the LiDAR setup for Google's own self-driving cars. He downloaded over 14,000 documents to his personal laptop, before leaving Google. He then left Google and created his own self-driving truck company, otto. Which was later sold to Uber.
This was a big deal, considering the fact that Waymo had designed its own LiDAR module for its vehicles. One that no other company would have.
Levandowski stole 14,000 documents from Waymo, which consisted of plenty of trade secrets. Uber was not aware of this information when it acquired Levandowski's self-driving truck startup.
The lawsuit that Waymo filed against Uber in 2017 was settled in 2018. Which resulted in Google getting a one-percent stake in Uber. This was after Uber fired Levandowski in 2017. Since then, the US Attorneys Office and the FBI have been working this case. Today, they announced that Levandowski has been arrested and charged with 33 counts of trade secrets theft.
These 33 counts carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and $250,000 fine each. Meaning that Levandowski could be looking at a pretty hefty bill and a long stay in prison.
Levandowski is a pretty infamous figure in the world of self-driving cars. He created the first two self-driving cars that Google bought. He also created otto, a self-driving truck startup. But he has also said some questionable things.
The New Yorker stated in 2017 that Levandowski said "I'm pissed we didn't have the first death" to a group of Uber engineers after a driver died in a Tesla that was on Autopilot in 2016. Levandowski of course denied ever saying that.
This was before a self-driving Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona earlier this year.
Waymo stated that "we have always believe competition should be fueled by innovation, and we appreciate the work of the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI on this case."
It's important to note that Anthony Levandowski has only been charged with these counts of trade secrets theft. He still has to go to trial and be sentenced. So it's unclear how long he'll spend in jail and how much he'll have to pay Google. There's no word yet on when the trial would begin. Levandowski's lawyer, however, says that his client is innocent on all counts.