back to article Uber fires robo car exec for insubordination

Uber has fired Anthony Levandowski, the technology exec at the center of Waymo's lawsuit against the ridesharing company that alleges theft of self-driving car secrets and patent infringement. Uber's chief legal officer Salle Yoo dropped the ax on Tuesday in a letter obtained by several media organizations, including The New …

  1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

    Follow the money

    I'd like to know how much of his money for Otto was still being vested, and hence what this cost him dollar-wise. When my start-up was acquired, we had golden hand-cuffs forcing us to stick around if we wanted our full amount commensurate with our start-up equity.

    If he already had all of his Otto money, then other than possible ego bruising, BFD.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Follow the money

      If being fired caused him to lose some unvested dollars, you can expect a lawsuit soon claiming he was terminated to prevent him from fully vesting.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby

        Re: Follow the money

        If being fired caused him to lose some unvested dollars, you can expect a lawsuit soon claiming he was terminated to prevent him from fully vesting.


        He wouldn't have a case.

        The issue is that he was ordered to comply, which he has refused to do so. So its now a well documented case. Were he to comply, he'd be open to a lot more litigation as an individual so he was smart to plead the 5th.

        Did you read about the clause that lets him back in to Uber if he decides to cooperate?

        Suppose he does... then if he admits he stole the data... Uber will still be able to fire him.

        Lucky for him, he probably has a bit of money in the bank so he can sit tight until this blows over and he moves on to somewhere else.

        So Uber dodges a bullet by letting him go and they still take a slight loss.

        If Google still goes after him, they (Uber) could probably claw back some of the money they spent on the company that was already vested. They may also just let it drop and move on.

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

      Re: Follow the money

      The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that he is losing $250M in this.

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Follow the money

        The company was purchased by Uber for $680 million. I'd want to know where that money went and if it is coming back, since the value of the company was entirely based on the man's theft.

        1. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge

          Re: Follow the money

          Probably most of the money went to the VC's who backed Otto. As for whether Google is going after them, good question.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And that's not all...

    "Uber's Advanced Technologies Group" is working on other great gig-economy products for drivers, riders, and consumers, such as:

    Project Blueball, following the embarassment of the Greyball* software tool, Uber is proud to offer Blueball an advance search tool to find drivers who are also prostitutes! That's a win-win!

    Project Greybeard, here's a great tool for families with wandering oldsters, Greybeard tool will search and locate your wandering and confused older relative, pick them up, and drive them back safely using a specially designed route to maximize driver tips! Win-win!

    Project Fireball, that's where our drivers set fire to Lyft taxi cars. Win-win!

    Also, Project Moonbase Alpha, where we route drivers all the way to the moon and back again, thus maximizing profits and all that shit! Boyakasha!

    * see

    1. Inspector71
      Thumb Up

      Re: And that's not all...

      I hope Project Moonbase Alpha includes a self driving Eagle Transporter.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: And that's not all...

      "Also, Project Moonbase Alpha, where we route drivers all the way to the moon and back again, thus maximizing profits and all that shit! Boyakasha!"

      They could also take a boot load of nuclear waste and drop it off while passing, win-win-win!

  3. Dr Scrum Master


    Salle Yoo dropped the ax

    She also dropped the letter e.

    1. tfewster

      Re: Dropped

      If you only want British English on El^WThe Reg, don't expect to see any more articles posted at 23:26 BST!

      Incidentally, why "Greyball" and not "Grayball"?

      1. Colin Millar


        Ax is good English English - according to the OED

      2. joeldillon

        Re: Dropped

        Possibly because it's also still Greyhound in US English? Webster's much-touted spelling reforms have actually made US English /more/ inconsistent in some respects.

      3. DropBear

        Re: Dropped

        "If you only want British English on El^WThe Reg, don't expect to see any more articles posted at 23:26 BST!"

        One can only hope.

      4. Hollerithevo

        Re: Dropped

        American 'ax' but British 'grey'. We live in mid-Atlantic times.

    2. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Re: Dropped

      Merriam-Webster also think this is correct, so American English is covered too I would think.

      Either that, or the author really meant "dropped the ox", which would be blunter but not significantly less painful, one would suppose.

    3. Grunchy Silver badge

      Re: Dropped

      Sallee Yoo

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As the Sleeze Turns

    If you visit their HQ, wear your Bus Pants.

  5. David Austin

    Was it wise to fire him?

    Could there be comeback in counter-lawsuits for Constructive dismissal?

    1. 1Rafayal

      Re: Was it wise to fire him?

      A constructive dismissal is a situation where your employer has made it impossible for you to carry out your duties.

      This guy was fired for not doing what he was told to do. So no, I dont think this is grounds for a contructive dismissal.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby

      @Dave Austin ... Re: Was it wise to fire him?

      Yes it was wise.

      No there is no chance for a Constructive dismissal.

      Uber's butt is already covered:

      In footnotes, Judge William Alsup explained that his order should not be misconstrued as an attempt to punish Levandowski for asserting his Fifth Amendment rights; rather it directs Uber, as a private employer, to take all necessary steps to ensure that its employees cooperate.

      "If Uber were to threaten Levandowski with termination for noncompliance, that threat would be backed up by only Uber's power as a private employer, and Levandowski would remain free to forfeit his private employment to preserve his Fifth Amendment privilege," the judge wrote.

      Essentially Levandowski screwed himself.

      He's insubordinate by refusing to cooperate.

      So Uber can fire him.

      Since this is already documented in the court case between Uber / Google... no lawyer would consider trying to fight it. Its an already lost cause.

      Levandowski has a major problem that he allegedly created.

      1) Google's claim of 14K docs taken from them when he went to start his own company.

      2) His start up was bought by a Google competitor.

      So he's a little guy caught between two giants.

      Had Levandowski not stolen the docs, and cooperated... it would still be a battle between Google and Uber and the burden would be on Google to show that the theft occurred and Levandowski was responsible or benefited from it.

      1. 404

        Re: @Dave Austin ... Was it wise to fire him?


        Bottom line is that a company, any company, can terminate an employee for insubordination if the employee does not surrender their Constitutional rights when ordered to by said company.

        Is that correct?

        1. 1Rafayal

          Re: @Dave Austin ... Was it wise to fire him?

          This isnt about his constitutional rights.

          He was fired because he didnt carry out an instruction he was given.

  6. Calimero

    So what is the big secret about LiDAR?

    None- all public info- it just needs a few 13 year old to code in Python ... b/c nowadays we don't really care about optimization - what is a microsecond [reaction] time delay? This is where we are with scientific computing these days ... again, what is the big deal !? Buy the sensor, the code is done in no time.. What is not going to be done in no time is the realization that self-driving is an AI-complete problem, and as much as I agree we are getting increasingly quality, we are not going to get it perfect - in some ways it will be better than human driving, in some ways worse. Only when self-driving cars will have the model of the railroads we can talk about 100% (well...) reliability .

    1. JaitcH

      Re: So what is the big secret about LiDAR?

      Obviously you haven't worked with LiDaR. LiDaR, as applied to domestic cleaning devices, is a nothing compared to a vehicle with high velocity movement and thousands of data inputs per second.

      My employer company designs and manufactures military robots and I can assure you, even when moving at relatively low speeds compared to cars, there are heavy data loads to deal with.

      If it was as easy as you suggest, there would be fleets of robotic vehicles cruising the highways.

  7. EveryTime

    Title doesn't reflect the nuanced situation

    A better headline might be "Uber isolates itself from admitting stolen files"

    The judge told Uber to use its employment leverage to have employees comply with a discovery order. The best option for Uber management was to terminate him, which neatly complies with the judge's orders and insulates them a bit from having to answer further questions.

    I wonder if we'll ever learn the terms of the dismissal. They were probably pretty generous, but with a deferred payment until after the trial.

    1. Phukov Andigh Bronze badge

      Re: Title doesn't reflect the nuanced situation

      yeah, it does give a sort of plausible deniability doesn't it?


      Are you available for consulting on a new "disruptive startup" I'm contemplating to profit from ignoring and violating even more laws and regulations regarding running a business and hiring employees and all that sort of "It's just an app" nonsense that rules Silicon Valley these days? :)

  8. DrG

    " the necessary steps to ensure that its employees return stolen files to Waymo "

    I don't think this judge understands computer files...

  9. The Nazz

    If only .....

    he had stuck to making inappropriate advances/comments to female* employees he'd still be there, possibly up for promotion.

    Or indeed, scoring a considerable number of goals for Bayern Munich.

    * I'm led to believe that other gender types are available.

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