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U.S. charges former Alphabet engineer with stealing self-driving car secrets


© Reuters. The exterior of the U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington

By Alexandria Sage and Dan Levine

(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday filed criminal charges against Anthony Levandowski, accusing the former high-ranking Alphabet (NASDAQ:) Inc engineer of stealing the company’s self-driving car technology before joining rival Uber Technologies (NYSE:) Inc.

Lawyers for Levandowski were not immediately available for comment.

Levandowski had left Alphabet’s Waymo unit in early 2016 and eventually took over Uber’s self-driving car project before Uber fired him.

A protracted legal battle over Levandowski has cost Uber precious time in its self-driving car project, which is important to its long-term profitability.

The 33 criminal charges against Levandowski largely mirror allegations that Waymo made in a civil lawsuit filed against Uber in 2017. Uber settled that case last year.

Levandowski did not publicly comment on Waymo’s allegations at the time, nor was he a party to that lawsuit.

Before leaving Waymo, Levandowski downloaded thousands of files in 2015 related to Alphabet’s self-driving car technology – including details related to Lidar, a crucial sensor technology for self-driving cars, according to the indictment.

Since leaving Uber, Levandowski has started another self-driving software company.

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