Erstwhile Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski is stepping down from his role as the head of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group. The news comes even as he, along with Uber itself, stand accused of stealing and using proprietary technology belonging to Google’s self-driving subsidiary Waymo, in their own self-driving system.
Levandowski will continue at Uber, although this does weaken his position somewhat. He is being replaced by Eric Meyhofer, who is joined the company from Carnegie Robotics, quite before the cab company acquired Otto. The change in the hierarchy come less than a week before the courts are set to take a decision about the fate of Uber’s self driving car program.
By replacing Levandowski, the cab company could be appearing to preclude the court’s decision. The legal solution doesn’t appear to be leaning in Uber’s favor after all. The sitting judge has already remarked about the strong case presented by Waymo and the hearing scheduled for later his week, could have seen Levandowski forcefully barred from involvement in the case. By taking the step to replace him as the head of the ATG, Uber could be attempting to tale precautionary measures so as to ensure that its self-driving programs are not harmed.
The cab aggregator has put in a lot of resources into ts self-driving projects — and a significant portion of the company’s future strategy revolves around them. As such, it would probably prefer to ensure the continued well-being of its self-driving program rather than keep protecting a mere executive, no matter how important that executive is.
Levandowski is accused of stealing as many as 14,000 confidential files pertaining to LiDAR technology from Waymo, and using them to set up his own company Otto. The technology passed to Uber with its acquisition of the latter, or so Waymo claims — leading to all this trouble.