Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and ex-employee Anthony Levandowski exchanged quite an interesting thread of conversations, which was only recently made public. There have been hundreds of messages revealed as part of a court filing on August 11, first reported on by IEEE’s Mark Harris.
Deep bond between Kalanick and Levandowski
The series of text messages that have now been made public show the bond that the two men had even before Uber acquired Otto, the self-driving truck startup founded by Levandowski after he left Google. If the reports are to be believed, then Levandowski used to take a secret staircase at the Uber office to visit Kalanick, and both of them frequently planned “jamming sessions,” notes Forbes.
Lawyers for Alphabet’s Waymo, however, believe that there are “significant and inexplicable gaps” in the text messages, as on February 13, there was no message exchanged even though Kalanick and Levandowski met before that.
Despite the claimed gaps, the messages are enough to reveal the strong bond the two men share. Outside of sharing details about testing phase challenges at Otto, the men seem to have a much informal relationship. These messages just prove that:
3/29/2016 Levandowski: I am at the secret side door, no rush
7/23/2016 Kalanick: You hungry? .. Can get some Uber Eats steak and eggs.
In their exchange of messages, Levandowski also stated that he was scared of Android Auto, which was quite popular in May 2016. There is also evidence in other court filings of Uber looking to partner with Google, but that did not materialize because of tensions with Google co-founder Larry Page. In September, Kalanick even received an article from Levandowski with the title “Larry Page is the reason we still don’t have a Google self-driving car.”
What do both think about Musk?
Kalanick and Levandowski also shared the same ambition, which was to take over the world. Uber was aware that Tesla is a huge competitor, and Kalanick was often seen worrying about it. They often talked about Tesla and Elon Musk in their text messages.
After the Tesla car crash in January, Levandowski messaged to Kalanick that Musk might be lying about Tesla’s cars driving million of miles without incident. He also stated that there should be an LDP on Tesla to find out all the crashes that have happened. Levandowski was referring to the crash in China that occurred with Autopilot on.
Levandowski even texted Kalanick about “calling Elon Musk out on his sh*t.” It was in reference to the reasoning that Musk gave about why they are not using LIDAR, a high-end sensor that helps self-driving cars to detect obstacles. According to Musk, Tesla is not deploying LIDAR for its Autopilot cars because it cannot sense rain, fog, dust or snow; instead, the company is using radar, which uses radio waves to identify obstacles instead of lasers.
Further, in October, Levandowski and Kalanick shared a string of messages about Musk stating that he “is going to make going to [self driving] not as big of a scary thing for the public… which should be good.”