Uber’s Anthony Levandowski, who founded Otto and then became head of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) once Otto was acquired by the ride-sharing company, is stepping aside from his role as head of ATG. The move comes as Uber continues a legal fight with Waymo, which began as Waymo accused Levandowski of using trade secrets stolen during his time at the then-Google self-driving car project to create lidar tech used by Otto and then Uber in their own autonomous vehicle efforts.
Levandowski will remain at Uber, despite his role change, though an internal email to his team first reported by Business Insider and confirmed as genuine by TechCrunch reveals he won’t be working on “all LiDAR-related work and management” at the company, which includes basically anything related to lasers, the company says. The new head of ATG will be Eric Meyhofer, who joined Uber from Carnegie Robotics prior to Uber’s acquisition of Otto, and who is therefore not directly implicated in the legal drama surrounding the self-driving truck company. Meyhofer will report directly to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.
The move comes less than a week before a court is set to decide whether to issue a preliminary injunction that could prevent Levandowski from working on Uber’s self-driving car unit, or even shut down Uber’s lidar development altogether. Levandowski removing himself from lidar development could be seen as a last-ditch effort to distance himself from the project in hopes that a judge will allow it to continue without his supervision.
Levandowski is accused of stealing more than 14,000 confidential documents related to Waymo’s lidar systems. A TechCrunch investigation revealed that he was questioned extensively about the arrangement of circuit boards in Uber’s lidar, and Waymo has accused him of stealing information regarding every generation of circuit board it’s ever developed.