An ongoing lawsuit in which Alphabet’s self-driving car unit Waymo accused Uber of stealing its secret self-driving technology points to one more executive who could be involved. On Monday, the suit hinted at an executive (also an ex-Google employee) other than the one named in February when it was filed.
Another Uber executive named
So far, senior Uber executive Anthony Levandowski was the only one being named. However, court documents on Monday suggested that Uber executive Lior Ron could be involved as well.
Both executives named in the lawsuit are ex-Google executives who quit the company to start Otto, their own venture of manufacturing self-driving trucks. The company was launched in May 2016 and then in August, Uber acquired it for $680 million. While Levandowski was appointed as head of autonomous vehicles at Uber, Ron’s LinkedIn profile still states his current position as “co-founder at Otto,” notes CNET.
Ron’s name was not clear in the documents made public on Monday, as it was heavily redacted. However, the documents did mention an executive who is an Otto “co-founder,” and other details of this person match Ron’s work history.
In addition, there was possibly a redaction error in the documents, revealing Ron’s first name “Lior” at one place, according to Business Insider. His last name also appeared on one of the pages. However, the documents have been edited since then, and now, there is no mention of “Lior” or “Ron.”
What happened between Waymo and Levandowski?
Levandowski is accused of taking 14,000 “highly confidential” files on a hard drive when he departed from the company. He is also blamed for trying to poach Google employees. Uber, however, says that these claims are baseless. The company would be in deep trouble if found guilty, and its self-driving car ambitions could get sidelined as well.
This case is based on Waymo’s LiDAR system, which is the backbone of its self-driving vehicles. This system enables a car to detect what’s happening in its surroundings and act accordingly. Waymo claims that during Levandowski’s stint with Google when he was working on LiDAR sensor modules, he was involved in the side companies Odin Wave and Tyto Lidar.
When asked, Levandowski said he had no ownership interest in Odin Wave. Later, a merger took place between Odin Wave and Tyto Lidar. Tyto’s manager, who was working on LiDAR sensor modules, was “friends with Levandowski and worked with Levandowski on an early, self-driving vehicle prototype,” according to the filing.
In 2015, Google started contemplating whether or not it should buy or use Tyto’s products. At that time, Levandowski was part of the team responsible to take this important decision. In the lawsuit, the search giant claimed that Levandowski was supposed to reveal the relationship he shared with Tyto and its employees, but he didn’t. And this was allegedly in conflict with his duties to Google.
The New York Times claimed recently that Levandowski will invoke his Fifth Amendment rights to avoid self-incrimination.