Anthony Levandowski

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Anthony Levandowski
Anthony Levandowski Headshot.jpg
Anthony Levandowski
Born15 March 1980
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
OccupationCo-Founder of Pronto

Anthony Levandowski (born March 15, 1980) is an American and French dual-national citizen and notable self-driving car engineer. In 2016 he co-founded Otto, an autonomous trucking company, with Lior Ron, Claire Delaunay and Don Burnette.[1] Prior to Otto, he built the Google self-driving car while working as a co-founder and technical lead on the project, known as Waymo.[2] He is known for his work in the advancement of self-driving technology.[3] In 2018 he co-founded Pronto, which he announced via a blog post.[4] Pronto was the first company to complete a cross-country drive in an autonomous vehicle in October 2018.[5] At the 2019 AV Summit hosted by The Information, Levandowski remarked that a fundamental breakthrough in AI is needed to move autonomous vehicle technology forward.[6]

On May 15, 2017, United States District Judge banned Levandowski from further work on Otto's Lidar technology on the basis of having breached the confidentiality of former employer Waymo.[7][8] On May 30, 2017, Uber fired Levandowski for failing to cooperate with investigators.[9] On August 27, 2019 he was indicted on 33 federal charges of alleged theft of self-driving car trade secrets. He and Uber founder Travis Kalanick have been suspected of working together to bring over intellectual property to Uber in a civil suit that was settled before a judgement could be made.[10]

Early life and career[edit]

In 1998, Levandowski entered the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research.[11] As a freshman, he launched an intranet service from his basement.[2] In 2004 he and fellow UC Berkeley engineers built an autonomous motorcycle, nicknamed Ghostrider, for the DARPA Grand Challenge.[12] The Ghostrider motorcycle competed in the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2004 and 2005 and was the only autonomous two-wheeled vehicle in the competition.[13] The motorcycle now resides in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.[2]

Recent career[edit]

Levandowski (right) at MCE 2016

In 2007 Levandowski joined Google to work on Google Street View with Sebastian Thrun, whom he had met at the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge.[13] While still working at Google he founded 510 Systems, a mobile mapping start-up that experimented with Lidar technology.[13] Then in 2008 he founded Anthony's Robots to build a self-driving Toyota Prius called the "Pribot."[12] According to The Guardian, it was "a self-driving Toyota Prius with one of the first spinning Lidar laser ranging units, and the first ever to drive on public roads."[14]

While working at Google, Levandowski simultaneously established other companies as a side project.[15] His companies 510 Systems and Anthony's Robots were later bought into Google.[16]

Levandowski worked on Google's self-driving car until January, 2016 when he left to found Otto, a company that makes self-driving kits to retrofit big rig trucks.[17][18][19] Quoted in The New York Times, Levandowski said he left Google because he "was eager to commercialize a self-driving vehicle as quickly as possible".[20] Otto launched in May 2016 and was acquired by Uber in late July 2016.[21] As part of the acquisition Levandowski assumed leadership of Uber's driverless car operation in addition to his work at Otto.[22]

In September 2017, Wired magazine reported that Levandowski had established a religious organisation called 'Way of the Future' to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence. As a former member of the Catholic church, his goal is to ‘create an artificial God with Christian morals’.”[15]

In July 2018, it was reported that Levandowski started a self-driving vehicle technology company.[23] A few months later, in mid-December 2018, Levandowski announced the launch of Pronto AI, a company to produce a $5000 camera-based self-driving highway-only retrofit system for semi trucks. As proof-of-concept, Levandowski claimed to have taken a modified self-driving Prius 3100 miles across the United States. The company's first product is expected to ship in 2019.[24][25]

Legal issues[edit]

According to a February 2017 lawsuit filed by Waymo, the autonomous vehicle research subsidiary of Alphabet Inc, Levandowski allegedly "downloaded 9.7 GB of Waymo’s highly confidential files and trade secrets, including blueprints, design files and testing documentation"[26][27] before resigning to found Otto.[28][29]

In March 2017, United States District Judge William Haskell Alsup, referred the case to federal prosecutors after Levandowski exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.[30] In May 2017, Judge Alsup ordered Levandowski to refrain from working on Otto's Lidar and required Uber to disclose its discussions on the technology.[31] Levandowski was later fired by Uber for failing to cooperate in an internal investigation.[9]

The lawsuit was settled in February 2018.[32]

On August 28th, 2019, Anthony Levandowski was indicted for the alleged theft of trade secrets from Google's self-driving unit Waymo. The indictment alleges Levandowski downloaded thousands of files from Waymo’s predecessor, Project Chauffeur, in the months before he left Google. The files allegedly included “critical engineering information about the hardware used on Project Chauffeur self-driving vehicles,” and that Levandowski transferred files onto his personal laptop. Levandowski, who later worked for Uber, had allegedly downloaded thousands of files before he left Google. Waymo settled a case against the ride-hail company in 2018, with Uber agreeing not to use the unit’s technology and to pay about $245 million. Following the indictment, Pronto, a new self-driving vehicle company that Levandowski co-founded and previously led, announced a new chief executive. The company said Chief Safety Officer Robbie Miller would take over as CEO. As of Tuesday afternoon, Levandowski did not appear on the company’s information page. [33]

Levandowski has pled not guilty to all counts of the indictment and is currently released on bail. [34]


  1. ^ D'Onfro, Jillian; Hartmans, Avery (August 18, 2016). "Uber just bought this self-driving truck startup created by former Googlers - take a look inside its HQ". Business Insider. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Bilger, Burkhard (November 17, 2013). "Auto Correct". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  3. ^ "Google self-driving car vets take on automated trucks". CNN Money. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  4. ^ Levandowski, Anthony (December 18, 2018). "Pronto Means Ready". Pronto AI. Medium. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  5. ^ "Levandowski's plans to ship automated driving systems for trucks in 2019". TechCrunch. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  6. ^ "Software, Insurance Dominated Discussions at 2019 AV Summit". The Information. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  7. ^ Mullin, Joe (May 15, 2017). "Judge's order bars Uber engineer from Lidar work, demands return of stolen files". Ars Technica. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  8. ^ Case 3:17-cv-00939-WHA Document 433 Filed 05/15/17 "By way of summary, this order finds plaintiff Waymo LLC has shown compelling evidence that its former star engineer, Anthony Levandowski, downloaded over 14,000 confidential files from Waymo immediately before leaving his employment there."
  9. ^ a b Mullin, Joe (May 30, 2017). "Uber engineer Levandowski, accused of massive theft from Google, has been fired". Ars Technica. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  10. ^ Bensinger, Greg (August 27, 2019). "Former Google self-driving engineer, who prompted a lawsuit against Uber, gets hit with criminal charges". The Washington Post.
  11. ^ Bonnie Azab Powell (February 13, 2003). "Spotlight on student entrepreneurs: At 22, Anthony Levandowski is already a veteran businessman". UC Berkeley News. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  12. ^ a b McCullagh, Declan (September 26, 2008). "Robotic Prius takes itself for a spin around SF". CNET. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  13. ^ a b c Harris, Mark (November 19, 2014). "The Unknown Start-up That Built Google's First Self-Driving Car". IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  14. ^ Harris, Mark (August 19, 2016). "How a robot lover pioneered the driverless car, and why he's selling his latest to Uber". The Guardian. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  15. ^ a b Harris, Mark (August 27, 2017). "God Is a Bot, and Anthony Levandowski Is His Messenger". Wired. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  16. ^ "Uber to deploy self-driving cars in Pittsburgh". BBC. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  17. ^ "Introducing Otto, the startup rethinking commercial trucking". Medium. Otto. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  18. ^ Harris, Mark. "How Otto defied Nevada and scored a $680m payout from Uber". Wired. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  19. ^ Harris, Mark. "How my public records request triggered Waymo's self-driving car lawsuit". Wired. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  20. ^ "Want to Buy a Self-Driving Car? Big-Rig Trucks May Come First". The New York Times. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  21. ^ "Uber acquires Otto to lead Uber's self-driving car effort". TechCrunch. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  22. ^ "Uber's First Self-Driving Fleet Arrives in Pittsburgh This Month". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  23. ^ "Anthony Levandowski is back with a new self-driving startup, called". TechCrunch. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  24. ^ Davies, Alex (December 18, 2018). "Self-Driving's Outcast Returns With a Robotruck Scheme". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  25. ^ Salinas, Sara (December 18, 2018). "Anthony Levandowski claims cross-country trip in self-driving car". Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  26. ^ "A note on our lawsuit against Otto and Uber". Medium. February 23, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  27. ^ "Alphabet's Waymo Alleges Uber Stole Self-Driving Secrets". February 23, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  28. ^ Chafkin, Max; Bergen, Mark (March 16, 2017). "Did Uber Steal the Driverless Future From Google?". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  29. ^ Isaac, Mike (May 18, 2017). "How Uber and Waymo Ended Up Rivals in the Race for Driverless Cars". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  30. ^ Wakabayashi, Daisuke; Isaac, Mike (March 31, 2017). "Uber Executive Invokes Fifth Amendment, Seeking to Avoid Potential Charges". The New York Times. p. B5. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  31. ^ Isaac, Mike (May 16, 2017). "Uber Engineer Barred From Work on Key Self-Driving Technology, Judge Says". The New York Times. p. B1. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  32. ^ Liedtke, Michael; Krisher, Tom (February 9, 2018). "Uber to pay $245 million to settle Waymo's theft allegations". The Washington Post. AP. Retrieved February 9, 2018.
  33. ^ Zaveri, Lauren Feiner,Paayal (August 27, 2019). "Ex-Google engineer charged with taking self-driving car trade secrets; DOJ considers flight risk and asks for $2 million bond". CNBC. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  34. ^ Wolverton, Troy. "Anthony Levandowski pleads not guilty to charges of Google trade theft and is released, with an ankle monitor, after posting $2 million bond". Business Insider. Retrieved August 29, 2019.