On Tuesday, federal prosecutors charged Anthony Levandowski, a prominent self-driving technology developer, with 33 counts of trade secret theft. It’s the latest twist in the biggest Silicon Valley scandal since Evan Spiegel was caught sending an Instagram story.
If convicted, Levandowski could face up to 10 years and a $250k fine for every charge.
Levandowski’s accused of downloading proprietary self-driving tech files before leaving Google in 2016. He joined Uber several months later when it bought Otto, his self-driving truck startup. Waymo, Google’s self-driving division, thought, “hmmm that tech looks awfully familiar” and sued Uber.
- In 2017, Uber settled with Waymo, promised to never use the secret tech, and handed over almost $245 million in stock.
Levandowski wasn’t a defendant in that case, but the judge handed allegations of trade secret theft to prosecutors. You know how that ended.
A Silicon Valley archetype
Levandowski’s an innovator who pushed self-driving technology years ahead. But besides staring down criminal charges, he’s also got his quirks. In 2015, Levandowski founded the “Way of the Future” church to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence.”