One of the engineering wonders of self-driving car technology,
Anthony Levandowski, has been charged with stealing trade secrets. The former Waymo/Google engineer was key in developing a LIDAR system before taking on employment with Uber.
Uber agreed to a settlement of $245,000 million, paying equity to Waymo in a 2017 civil lawsuit. The judge had recommended federal prosecutors consider a criminal investigation.
The allegation is that Levandowski downloaded approximately 14,000 files from Google months before his departure from Google and Uber used them to advance their self-driving technology.
The day following the indictment of Levandowski, Uber annouced it wants to operate its ridesharing services to Metro Vancouver. Uber will be applying to the BC Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) for authorization to operate in Metro Vancouver.
The Uber application is to operate in an area which includes Metro Vancouver, Squamish, the Fraser Valley, and Lillooet.
Uber is searching for “driving partners” in British Columbia to make their ride-sharing services profitable. However, with the ongoing battle for control of self-driving car technology, the boom for drivers is likely a temporary one. It appears Uber wants to develop a self-driving taxi fleet to turn around their ongoing debt and lack of profit.
The BC Government needs to develop centers for innovation in self-driving technology. Uber, Waymo and other self-driving heavy weights are fighting hard to keep trade secrets because of the immense financial significance for the future.
The indictment of Levandowski may be a wake up call for governments that will soon have to contend with self-driving technology on public roads. These companies will own the technology in highly automated vehicles, responsible for operating vehicles. This will not only impact the employment sector but will also test our concepts of legal accountability.