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Former Uber Self-Driving Head Loses $179 Million Judgment to Google

By Howard Smith - Mar 5, 2020 at 2:33PM

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The ruling in San Francisco has forced the ex-Uber and Waymo engineer to file for bankruptcy protection.

Anthony Levandowski, a former engineer for Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google parent, Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL 5.11%) (GOOG 5.20%), and later for Uber Technologies (UBER 2.95%) has filed for bankruptcy protection after losing a $179 million legal decision to Alphabet in San Francisco. 

Levandowski joined Google in 2007, and was a central engineer in the development of Waymo, Google's self-driving project.  

self driving cars

Image source: Getty Images.

Ongoing legal dispute

Levandowski left Waymo in 2016 to help start Otto, which was eventually acquired by Uber. Other colleagues joined him at Otto, including head of product for Google Maps, Lior Ron. Subsequently, Levandowski was accused by Google of misusing confidential information and breaching his employment contract. In December 2019, an arbitration panel determined that he must pay Google in the legal dispute. The decision and the $179 million payment the panel determined Levandowski owed were upheld by a San Francisco County court judge on Wednesday. 

According to the Wall Street Journal, Alphabet sued Uber in 2017 and accused Levandowski of stealing confidential files before leaving his position on the Waymo project. Alphabet, through Waymo, believed the stolen information made its way into the engineering Uber used for its self-driving vehicles. Specifically in its lidar sensor design that is used to detect nearby obstacles. 

Ron, who continues to work for Uber, settled with Google for $9.7 million last month with the amount paid by Uber, according to Reuters. 

Levandowski, who no longer works for Uber, is estimated to have $50 million to $100 million in assets, and $100 million to $500 million in liabilities, according to his bankruptcy filing. 

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