Uber, the embattled but well-funded ride-hailing company, has reportedly fired the executive in charge of its self-driving car efforts.
Anthony Levandowski was a vice president of technology at the San Francisco company before he was terminated on Tuesday, according to an internal email reviewed by several press outlets. The move was the apparent result of his involvement in the legal standoff between Uber and Waymo, the self-driving car division spun out of Google last year. Levandowski was a longtime Google employee before joining Uber. Waymo claims Uber is using its trade secrets; Uber denies the charge.
According to the email, Uber "urged" Levandowski "to fully cooperate" with a federal judge's order to hand over evidence and testimony. Levandowski chose instead to assert his Fifth Amendment rights to avoid self-incrimination.
After nearly nine years at Google, Levandowski left to found Otto, a self-driving truck startup, in 2016. Seven months later Uber acquired the young company for an undisclosed sum reported to be less than $1 billion. The deal came amid a series of acquisitions as conventional automakers and software companies paired in a race to develop what appears to be the future of personal transportation.