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Ex-Google, Uber engineer charged with stealing self-driving car trade secrets

Ex-Google, Uber engineer charged with stealing self-driving car trade secrets
© Getty Images

A former engineer at both Google and Uber has been indicted by a federal grand jury in California for allegedly stealing trade secrets involved in Google’s self-driving cars program.

The 33-count indictment against Anthony Levandowski, filed earlier this month and unsealed Tuesday, alleges that he downloaded more than 14,000 engineering, manufacturing and business files from Google in the months before his departure from the company in early 2016.

Levandowski worked as the lead of Google’s Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) engineering team from 2009 through 2016. The program was part of Google’s push to develop self-driving car technology. Levandowksi is alleged to have stolen files including instructions for installing and testing LiDAR and circuit board schematics.

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After leaving Google, Levandowski is alleged to have taken files to two companies competing with Google to develop self-driving cars — Tyto LiDAR LLC and 280 Systems Inc. — the second of which became Ottomotto.

Ottomotto was acquired by Uber in 2016, with Levandowski hired at the same time to lead Uber’s self-driving car efforts in San Francisco; Palo Alto, Calif.; and Pittsburgh.

Uber fired Levandowski in 2017 after charges were brought against him involving theft of trade secrets from Google.

Levandowski faces up to 10 years in jail, along with a fine of $250,000 per count, if convicted.

David Anderson, the U.S. attorney for the District Court of Northern California, emphasized in a statement that “theft is not innovation.”

“All of us have the right to change jobs, none of us has the right to fill our pockets on the way out the door,” Anderson added. 

The FBI was also involved in the investigation.

Levandowski is scheduled to be arraigned in court on the charges later Tuesday.