February 23, 2024

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Uber’s former self-driving car leader ordered to pay Google $179 million


Former Google and Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski leaves federal court in San Jose, California, after a hearing in September 2019.

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Anthony Levandowski, former Google engineer and a pioneer of self-driving car tech, was ordered Wednesday to pay $179 million to Google, according to Reuters. The multi-million dollar fine is over Levandowski quitting his job and breaking his contract with the tech giant. 

Levandowski left Google in 2016 to start his own self-driving truck company, which was quickly acquired by Uber for $680 million. These actions set off a chain of events that led to Google’s autonomous vehicle unit, Waymo, suing Uber over alleged theft of self-driving car trade secrets. That lawsuit settled in February 2018 with Uber agreeing to pay Waymo $245 million.

Google, however, also sued Levandowski individually in arbitration. In December, a panel for the case agreed to fine Levandowski the $179 million. The award was approved by a San Francisco Superior Court judge and finalized on Wednesday. The details of the award were confidential.

“Today the court has posted to the docket its final decision, confirming the award in Google’s favor and issuing a significant judgment against Levandowski,” a Waymo spokeswoman said in an email. “We will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure our confidential information is protected as we build the world’s most experienced driver.”

Federal prosecutors with the Northern District of California also indicted Levandowski in August. That suit involves 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from the search giant. The activities allegedly took place as he prepared to leave Google to build out Uber’s self-driving car operation. If found guilty, Levandowski could get up to 10 years in prison. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Levandowski filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg, the same day the $179 million award to Google was finalized.

Uber declined to comment.

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