Uber has fired Anthony Levandowski, the engineer who formerly headed up the company’s self-driving car development team.
Overnight, Uber confirmed to The New York Times it had fired its star engineer.
The search giant and its self-driving car subsidiary has accused Levandowski of stealing 9.7 gigabytes of data and around 14,000 files from the company before leaving to start Otto, a company focussed on self-driving vehicle technology.
Otto was subsequently bought by Uber in a deal worth around $700 million ($940 million), albeit mainly consisting of stock.
Although Uber has denied the allegations, it has launched an internal investigation into the matter.
Above: Anthony Levandowski (right) via Transport Topics on Flickr.
The Times published an email from Angela Padilla, Uber’s associate general counsel, to the company’s employees: “Over the last few months Uber has provided significant evidence to the court to demonstrate that our self-driving technology has been built independently.
“Over that same period, Uber has urged Anthony to fully cooperate in helping the court get to the facts and ultimately helping to prove our case.
“We take our obligations under the court order very seriously, and so we have chosen to terminate his employment at Uber.”
The newspaper understands Levandowski was fired after he missed an internal deadline to hand over information to Uber’s internal investigation.
The last few months have been torrid for the popular ride-hailing app with significant staff turn over at its self-driving car project, run-ins with regulators, a very public withdrawal from public road testing in San Francisco, and accusations of sexual harassment.