The Mobile World Congress is known for many things but two things stand out: Cool new tech and interactions with the people that actually create them. However, the interactions are not always pleasant experiences for the people actually giving them. However, Uber owned Otto’s Co-Founder Anthony Levandowski managed to walk off the stage without having had to answer many questions that would undoubtedly have been harder to answer as compared to his company’s future plans.
Uber has not been having a good month. First, ex-employee Susan Fowler published a very public post in which she made allegations of sexual harassment at Uber. The claims shocked everyone, including CEO Travis Kalanick, who set up a committee to investigate the matter. The affair also sparked comments from several Uber investors, besides leading to a resurgence of the #deleteUber campaign.
However, the real issue — and one that personally involves Levandowski — came up when last week, Alphabet’s Waymo sued Uber, claiming that the company had stolen its technology. THe claims involve Levandowski, because he was the employee directly named by Waymo as the person behind the thefts. Waymo claimed that the Otto founder not only secretly downloaded thousands of engineering blueprints that were the intellectual property of Waymo, he also used them to set up Otto.
Between all these controversies, you would have thought that Levandowski would just feign sickness or work and avoid coming to the MWC Q&A altogether. However, he came and managed to avoid every single question relevant to these controversies that was put to him. How? He wasn’t asked any, that is how.
GSMA CMO Michael O’Hara, instead chose to question him about how Uber could make users more comfortable about its self-driving tech and how, the company planned to deal with all the hub-hub regarding the fact that these cars were in fact unsafe and prone to being hacked by external agents. Without delving particularly deep into the how, Levandowski said that Uber was aware of these concerns and was taking care to address them.
Upon regulatory measures — that have seen Uber pushed off streets in several regions — he said that regulation was something really important to the company. He went on to add that the company was committed towards working with governments to improve safety and ensure that innovation can happen quickly. And apparently, quickly for him means as quickly as cellphones. Although many would question the wisdom of this suggestion considering that our lives — for most of the people — do not depend upon the phone operating as it should.
Upon whether Uber’s self-driving cars had actually hit anyone, he merely said that those cars have been hit by other people.