Published: Thu, June 01, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

Uber fires its self-driving vehicle engineer

Levandowski came to Uber after a long stint at Google, where he shepherded that company's own self-driving vehicle program before it was spun off into a standalone business called Waymo.

Uber stated that it fired the engineer after to declined to meet the deadline that would enable Uber to cooperate with the judge's order. Instead the hiring led to a court fight and the threat of criminal charges. He has been accused of downloading 14,000 confidential files before departing Alphabet in 2016.

Uber replaced him as the head of its self-driving auto unit in April before finally making the decision to fire him.

Mr Levandowski is not a defendant, but his actions are at the heart of Alphabet's lawsuit against Uber. "But Levandowski is refusing to let the devices that might contain the files be searched, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination".

The New York Times reports that Uber was left with little choice but to terminate Levandowski's employment as it could no longer be seen standing by him following Waymo's accusations.

Levandowski refused to return any documents, branding the request "unconstitutional", and was subsequently fired this week. Uber denies these claims.

However, Levandowski's refusal to cooperate with those efforts was the reason for his firing, according to his termination letter.

Uber and Alphabet are battling over technology expected to revolutionise the way people use cars. In a court filing last month, Uber stated that its technology is different.

Last month, Uber named Eric Meyhofer as Levandowski's replacement as head of its Advanced Technologies Group.

Uber has been hit by a string of departures of senior executives and other negative news.

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