Uber says it was unaware that its chief self-driving car executive had allegedly downloaded proprietary information from his former employer, Waymo, until the allegation was raised in a lawsuit earlier this year.
In court papers filed Wednesday, the ride-hailing startup sought to discredit Waymo’s assertion that it conspired with Anthony Levandowski to steal 14,000 “highly confidential” files on self-driving car technology before he left Waymo, the autonomous vehicle unit of Alphabet, in January 2016.
“Prior to the filing of this lawsuit, no one at Uber knew that Levandowski had downloaded any Google proprietary information for any improper purpose or that he had deliberately taken any Google proprietary information with him when he left Google,” according to an Uber filing in San Francisco federal court.
Levandowski helped develop Waymo’s lidar technology, a key component in self-driving cars that lets vehicles “see” their surroundings and detect traffic, pedestrians, bicyclists and other obstacles. Waymothe allegedly stolen information has benefited Uber as it’s developed its own driverless car tech. Uber denies this assertion.
Uber said in its filing it believes the file downloading was unrelated to Levandowski’s future employment at Uber but rather was performed to ensure he received an expected payment of a $120 million bonus from Google.
During Uber negotiations last year to buy Otto, the self-driving truck startup Levandowski formed after leaving Google, Levandowski told Uber executives, including former CEO Travis Kalanick, that he found five discs in his home containing Google information.
“Kalanick emphatically told Levandowski that Uber did not want any such information,” Uber said in the court filing, adding that Levandowski later informed executives he had destroyed the discs.
Uber said last month it had fired Levandowski after he failed for months to cooperate with an internal investigation.
Waymo didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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