A California grand jury has indicted former Uber executive Anthony Levandowski for stealing trade secrets relating to self-driving cars from Google.
The indictment, which was unsealed on August 26, alleges that Levandowski downloaded confidential engineering, manufacturing, and business documents from Google servers before resigning without notice in 2016.
Following his resignation from Google, Levandowski founded his own self-driving vehicle start-up, Ottomotto, which was later bought out by Uber Technologies for a reported $680 million.
David Anderson, US attorney for the US District Court for the Northern District of California, said that while “all of us have the right to change jobs...none of us has the right to fill our pockets on the way out the door”.
At the time of his resignation in January 2016, Levandowski headed Google’s Light Detecting and Ranging (LiDAR) engineering department. LiDAR is an essential technology in the development of self-driving vehicles.
According to the indictment, Levandowski downloaded 14,000 files from a secure Google server.
The files contained “critical engineering information” about the hardware used in the development of Google’s self-driving vehicles, prosecutors said.
Levandowski also allegedly downloaded additional files to his personal computer containing instructions for calibrating and tuning Google’s LiDAR technology.
In total, the former Uber engineer was charged with 33 counts of attempted theft and theft of trade secrets.
The indictment follows a civil case brought by Google self-driving vehicle subsidiary Waymo against Uber and Levandowski’s company over the alleged theft of the files in 2017.
The parties settled the civil case for $245 million in February 2018.