Ex-Google engineer sentenced to 18 months in prison for theft

Anthony Levandowski, a self-driving car engineer who worked for Google before joining Uber, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for stealing trade secrets.

According to a report in TechCrunch on Tuesday, US District Judge in San Francisco, William Alsup said that home confinement would “(give) a green light to every future brilliant engineer to steal trade secrets. Prison time is the answer to that”.

Levandowski also agreed to pay $756,499.22 in restitution to Google’s self-driving car unit Waymo and a fine of $95,000, said the report.

“Today marks the end of three and a half long years and the beginning of another long road ahead. I’m thankful to my family and friends for their continued love and support during this difficult time,” Levandowski said in a statement provided by his attorneys after the sentencing.

The case dates back to 2017 when Uber and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, locked horns with each other over the latter’s accusation on the ride-hailing app of stealing its self-driving technology.

Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber in 2017, alleging that the stolen information became the technological basis for Uber’s self-driving cars.

According to the lawsuit, Levandowski, who earlier headed its self-driving car project, downloaded around 14,000 files from his company-issued computer containing trade secrets related to Waymo’s LIDAR technology, circuit board designs, and testing documentation.

The company also alleged that Levandowski tried to remove traces of those actions by reformatting his laptop.

Levandowski joined Uber after his stint at Google, where he shepherded the company’s own self-driving car programme.

Uber fired him in 2017 over this case.

Google’s parent company Alphabet and Uber agreed on a settlement in 2018 over trade secret theft claims.

But Levandowski recently filed a lawsuit to demand $4.1 billion from Uber in relation to its acquisition of his previous self-driving truck startup, Otto Trucking, TechCrunch reported.