Waymo, Google’s sister company focused on
self-driving-car technology, claims in a lawsuit that Uber
stole intellectual property and trade secrets when it acquired
a startup founded by Anthony Levandowski.
Levandowski was the head of Waymo’s self-driving-tech
team before joining Uber.
Levandowski slammed Tesla’s approach to self-driving
tech in text messages to Travis Kalanick, Uber’s cofounder and
former CEO. The texts were made public via a court
An Uber engineer slammed Tesla CEO Elon Musk in texts to Travis
Kalanick, Uber’s cofounder and former CEO, a court filing shows.
The former engineer, Anthony Levandowski, is at the heart of a
lawsuit filed in February by Waymo, Google’s sister company
focusing on self-driving-car technology. The suit claims that
Levandowski, the former head of Waymo, stole intellectual
property and trade secrets and used them for Uber’s
Levandowski joined Uber in August 2016 when the company acquired
his self-driving-truck startup, Otto. Uber fired
Levandowski in May over his refusal to cooperate in the legal
A court filing, first
reported by IEEE Spectrum’s Mark
Harris on Tuesday, shows text exchanges between Levandowski
and Kalanick while the two were planning the Otto acquisition.
An interesting nugget buried in the texts is a shot Levandowski
took at Musk’s approach to self-driving-car technology.
“We’ve got to start calling Elon on his s—,” Levandowski wrote
in a text in September. “I’m not on social media but let’s start
‘faketesla’ and start give physics lessons about stupid s— Elon
Tesla did not immediately return Business Insider’s request for
Levandowski’s example of “stupid s— Elon
says” was the Tesla CEO’s reasoning behind his decision
not to use lidar, a notoriously expensive sensor that uses lasers
to help self-driving cars detect obstacles.
Musk has said Tesla does
not use lidar for its Autopilot technology because lidar cannot
penetrate rain, fog, dust, or snow. Instead, Tesla cars are
equipped with a radar sensor, which uses radio waves instead.
Waymo, Ford, and General Motors are a few companies equipping
their self-driving cars with radar and lidar.
Levandowski also accused Musk of lying about the number of
crashes that had occurred while a Tesla car was operating with
“Tesla crash in January … implies Elon is lying about millions
of miles without incident,” Levandowski wrote in another text in
September. “We should have LDP on Tesla just to catch all the
crashes that are going on.”
Levandowski appears to be referring to a fatal crash on January
20, 2016, in China that may have occurred while Autopilot was
activated, The New York Times
The court filing does not show any response from Kalanick.
Levandowski may have been skeptical of Musk’s approach to
self-driving cars, but Kalanick reportedly
asked Musk in 2016 to partner on an autonomous ride-hailing
platform. Musk turned down the offer.