Uber fires star engineer, Anthony Levandowski, at the center of self-driving car battle

Since the beginning of 2017, Uber has seen non-stop controversies from #DeleteUber to accusations of technology theft. Here are all the controversies in one place. (Daron Taylor,Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber has fired Anthony Levandowski, the star engineer at the center of its high-stakes legal fight over driverless cars.

Levandowski, the 37-year-old former chief of Uber’s self-driving program, was given notice on Friday, according to a termination letter obtained Tuesday by the Washington Post. The company cited his failure to comply with a judge’s request that he turn over thousands of documents that he is accused of stealing from Google’s parent company, where he had worked as a senior engineer in driverless cars.

Uber said his refusal to hand over those documents — a key piece of evidence in the lawsuit between Uber and Google’s parent company — violated the terms of his employment. Under those terms, Levandowski had to promise that he would not disclose trade secrets or proprietary information from his previous employer when he came on board.

The company said his failure to share the documents hamstrung the company’s internal probe.

“Consistent  with  our  agreements  with  you,  your  employment  is hereby terminated for Cause, and that termination shall become effective 20 days from today,” Uber General Counsel Salle Yoo wrote in the termination letter. “Your failure [to comply with legal requests] impeded Uber’s internal investigation and defense of the lawsuit.”

But Levandowski has cited his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination as a reason why he will not turn over those documents, which reside on his personal computer. In a statement on Tuesday, his lawyers argued that a person cannot be fired for invoking one’s Fifth Amendment rights.

The firing is the latest twist in a case that has pit two Silicon Valley giants over a technology many…

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