Anthony Levandowski

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Anthony Levandowski
Anthony Levandowski Headshot.jpg
Anthony Levandowski
BornMarch 15, 1980
Brussels, Belgium
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
OccupationCo-Founder of Pronto
Known for
  • Pleading guilty to trade secret theft
  • Co-Founding Waymo (2009–2016)
  • Co-Founding Otto (company) (2016)
Notable work
  • Ghost Rider: an autonomous motorcycle
  • Pribot: the first autonomous vehicle to drive on public roads
Height6' 6"
Websiteanthonylevandowski.com

Anthony Levandowski (born March 15, 1980) is a French-American self-driving car engineer.[1] He is known for advancing the field of autonomous vehicles and for pleading guilty to trade secret theft.[2] In 2009, Levandowski co-founded Google's self-driving car program, now known as Waymo, and was a technical lead until 2016.[3][4] In 2016, he co-founded and sold Otto, an autonomous trucking company, to Uber Technologies.[5][6] In 2018, he co-founded the autonomous trucking company Pronto; the first self-driving technology company to complete a cross-country drive in an autonomous vehicle in October 2018.[7][8] At the 2019 AV Summit hosted by The Information, Levandowski remarked that a fundamental breakthrough in artificial intelligence is needed to move autonomous vehicle technology forward.[9]

In 2019, Levandowski was indicted on 33 federal charges of alleged theft of self-driving car trade secrets.[10] In August 2020, Levandowski admitted to illegally downloading thousands of files before leaving Waymo, pleaded guilty to one of the 33 charges, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.[11][12][13][14] He was pardoned less than six months later on January 20, 2021, the last day of Donald Trump's presidency.[15]

Early life[edit]

Levandowski was born on March 15, 1980, in Brussels, Belgium to a French diplomat mother and an American businessman. He moved to California in the mid-1990s. During his teenage years, he developed websites for local businesses.[4]

In 1998, Levandowski entered the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research.[16] As a freshman, he founded La Raison, an intranet and IT services company that made fifty thousand dollars in its first year.[17][4] His sophomore year, Levandowski built the BillSortBot, a robot made from 300 Lego pieces that sorted Monopoly money for the Sun Microsoft robotics competition. He won first place.[17] In 2003, Levandowski launched Construction Control Systems with Randy Miller to build WorkTop, a portable blueprint reader and updater for construction sites.[17]

In 2003, Levandowski and fellow UC Berkeley engineers, aka the "Blue Team" starting building an autonomous motorcycle, nicknamed Ghost Rider, for the 2004 DARPA Grand Challenge.[18] The Ghost Rider motorcycle was originally a Honda RX. It was built over several years for an estimated $100,000 and competed in the DARPA Grand Challenge in 2004 and 2005. It was the only autonomous two-wheeled vehicle in the competitions.[19] The motorcycle was a retrofitted with video cameras, computers, a GPS receiver, an IMU, and motors to power the clutch and steering.[20] As the team lead, participation in the DARPA Grand Challenge paved the way for Levandowski to build PriBot, the first self-driving car to drive on public roads.[21] In 2007, Levandowski donated the Ghost Rider to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where it now resides.[21][4]

Career[edit]

Levandowski (right) at MCE 2016

In 2006, Levandowski began working with Sebastian Thrun, whom he had met at the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge, on VueTool. Vuetool was a Stanford street mapping project that used cameras mounted on vehicles to create maps.[22] In early 2007, Google X hired Thrun, Levandowski, and their entire team to help develop the Google Street View system. To meet Larry Page's target of capturing 1,000,000 kilometres (620,000 mi) of roadways before the end of 2007, Levandowski ordered 100 Toyota Priuses from a local dealership.[22] The Street View team's success was partially due to the "Topcon box" or IP-S2 Mobile Mapping System, a roof mounted box composed of Lidar, cameras, GPS, IMUs, and wheel encoders that enabled a car to drive around and create a 3D map. The Topcon box was designed by 510 Systems, a start-up co-founded by Levandowski in early 2007 alongside Pierre-Yves Droz and Andrew Schultz.[23][22][19] Google employed 510 Systems technology until it quietly acquired the company in 2011.[19]

In 2008, Levandowski was approached by the director of Discovery Channel's Prototype This! requesting to use the Ghost Rider in an episode to deliver a pizza using an unmanned vehicle. The Ghost Rider was in the Smithsonian at the time, so Levandowski offered to retrofit a Toyota Prius for the show.[19] Levandowski approached Google and 510 Systems with the venture, but they both turned him down for liability reasons. Levandowski stated, in an interview with The Guardian, "Google was very supportive of the idea, but it absolutely did not want its name associated with it. Google was worried about a Google engineer building a car that crashes and kills someone.”[24] In June 2008, with Google's blessing, Levandowski founded Anthony's Robots in order to build the PriBot.[25][18] The PriBot 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."[24] For the show footage, the police cleared the road and escorted the driverless Prius on a pre-determined route from San Francisco across the Bay Bridge. The drive was successful, aside from scraping against a guard rail on a sharp turn. Within the span of weeks, Levandowski had demonstrated that self-driving cars were possible, even on a budget.[19] By early 2009, Levandowski and Thrun were greenlit by Brin and Page to launch their own driverless car project within Google. Anthony's Robots was acquired by Google in 2011 alongside his company 510 Systems for an estimated $20 million.[19][26]

In 2009, Levandowski and Thrun co-founded Google's self-driving car project (Chauffeur), now known as Waymo. Over the next two years, Levandowski's 510 Systems built five additional self-driving Priuses for Google.[22] In 2011, Levandowski lobbied Nevada to allow the testing of autonomous vehicles. In May 2012, the Las Vegas DMV performed the first self-driving car test with Chris Urmson in the driver's seat and Anthony Levandowski in the passenger seat. The car passed the test.[27] Levandowski continued to work as a technical lead on Google's self-driving car project alongside Chris Urmson, Dmitri Dolgov, and Mike Montemerlo until January 2016, when he left to launch Otto. In addition to Project Chauffeur, Levandowski's contributions to Google include work on Street View, Cardboard, Telepresence, Ground Truth, Oblique Aerial Imagery, and Tiramisu.[22]

Otto was founded in January 2016 by Levandowski, Lior Ron, Claire Delaunay, and Don Burnette. Eleven Google employees also joined them.[28] Otto retrofitted big rig trucks with self-driving kits.[29][30][31][28] Levandowski stated he left Google because he, "was eager to commercialize a self-driving vehicle as quickly as possible."[30] Otto was acquired by Uber in late July 2016, at which point Levandowski assumed leadership of Uber's driverless car operation.[32][33] On May 30, 2017, Levandowski was fired from Uber. In July 2018 their autonomous trucking program was shut down.[34]

In 2018, Levandowski launched Pronto AI to produce a 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 3,100 miles (5,000 km) across the United States.[35][36][37]

Civil lawsuit[edit]

According to a February 2017 civil lawsuit filed by Waymo officially known as Waymo v. Uber (Levandowski was not a defendant in the case),[38] Levandowski allegedly "downloaded 9.7 GB of Waymo’s confidential files and trade secrets, including blueprints, design files, and testing documentation"[39][40] before resigning to found Otto.[41][42] Google co-founder Larry Page was reluctant to file the suit. However, he was pushed over the edge when one of Waymo's suppliers inadvertently copied a Waymo engineer on an email of a schematic of Uber's Lidar design. Uber's design appeared to be almost identical to that of Waymo.[43]:234 The civil suit between Uber and Waymo was settled in February 2018 with Uber agreeing to pay Waymo 0.34% of its equity, valued at approximately $245 million, and not to use the unit's technology.[38][44]

Before filing its lawsuit against Uber in 2017, Google had separately taken Levandowski to private arbitration over a contract dispute.[45] On March 4, 2020, Levandowski filed for bankruptcy protection after the court confirmed an arbitration panel's ruling that Levandowski and his colleague Lior Ron had breached their employment contracts with Google by poaching employees for their startup. The panel found that Levandowski owed Google $179 million—$120 million accounted for the salary he received while at the company, and the remainder for interest and legal fees accrued.[46]

On March 30, 2020, Levandowski filed a motion with a California bankruptcy judge to force Uber to honor its contractual obligation to indemnify Levandowski. At issue is the validity of the indemnification agreement that Uber, Levandowski, and Ron entered into pre-acquisition. According to a court document, “The indemnification agreement was structured to ensure that Mr. Levandowski would not be left unprotected against Google, which had inexhaustible resources to attack Mr. Levandowski.”[47] Uber initially honored the agreement and covered both Levandowski and Ron's legal costs. However, in April 2018, days before the final arbitration hearing that resulted in Levandowski owing Google $179 million, Uber informed him it would be seeking reimbursement for his defense costs, arguing he had breached their agreement by refusing to testify.[47]

In March 2017, United States District Judge William Haskell Alsup referred the civil case to federal prosecutors, citing the Economic Espionage Act of 1996[48] after Levandowski exercised his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.[5] In May 2017, Judge Alsup ordered Levandowski to refrain from working on Lidar at Uber and required Uber to disclose its discussions on the technology.[49] Levandowski was later fired by Uber for failing to cooperate in an internal investigation.[50] Soon after the case went to trial, Uber, through its lawyers, publicly apologized for hiring Levandowski.[43]:255

Criminal conviction and pardon[edit]

On August 27, 2019, Levandowski was charged by the Department of Justice for the alleged theft of trade secrets from Google's self-driving unit Waymo. In months before he left Google, the charges alleged Levandowski downloaded thousands of files from Waymo's predecessor, Project Chauffeur. The data allegedly included “critical engineering information about the hardware used on Project Chauffeur self-driving vehicles,” and that Levandowski transferred files onto his laptop before leaving the company. Following the indictment, Pronto, a new self-driving trucking company that Levandowski co-founded, announced that its Chief Safety Officer, Robbie Miller, would take over as CEO.[51]

On March 19, 2020, Levandowski agreed to plead guilty to one of the thirty-three charges initially brought against him by the Department of Justice. Originally charged with stealing documents containing trade secrets, technical specifications, and Lidar design, Levandowski's pleaded guilty to downloading an internal project tracking document called, "Chauffeur TL Weekly – Q4 2015"—a spreadsheet consisting of team goals, project metrics, and weekly status updates accessible by Levandowski's team on an unsecured Google Drive. Levandowski admitted to accessing the document about one month after leaving Google in February 2016.[52][53][54]

On August 4, 2020, Levandowski formally pleaded guilty to one count of trade secret theft, and Judge William Alsup sentenced him to 18 months in prison. Prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining 32 charges as a part of the plea agreement.[2][55][56][57][58]

During the sentencing, Alsup said, “this is the biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen.  This was not small.  This was massive in scale.”[2] He also described Levandowski as a "brilliant, groundbreaking engineer that our country needs. We need those people with vision. I’m going to give him that."[59] In addition to time served, Levandowski was ordered to pay $756,499.22 in restitution to Waymo and a fine of $95,000.[60]

On January 20, 2021, his last day in office, President Donald Trump granted a full pardon to Levandowski.[61]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Google self-driving car vets take on automated trucks". CNN Money. May 17, 2016. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Former Uber Executive Sentenced To 18 Months In Jail For Trade Secret Theft From Google (press release), Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California (August 4, 2020).
  3. ^ Isaac, Mike (August 27, 2019). "Former Star Google and Uber Engineer Charged With Theft of Trade Secrets". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d Bilger, Burkhard (November 17, 2013). "Auto Correct". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  5. ^ a b 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.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Levandowski's Pronto.ai plans to ship automated driving systems for trucks in 2019". TechCrunch. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  8. ^ Levandowski, Anthony (December 18, 2018). "Pronto Means Ready". Pronto AI. Medium. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  9. ^ "Software, Insurance Dominated Discussions at 2019 AV Summit". The Information. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  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. ^ "Former Google Engineer Levandowski to Plead Guilty to Theft". Bloomberg.com. March 19, 2020. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  12. ^ "Ex-Google self-driving engineer pleads guilty to trade secrets theft".
  13. ^ "Anthony Levandowski sentenced to 18 months in prison, as new $4B lawsuit against Uber is filed". TechCrunch. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
  14. ^ https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndca/pr/former-uber-executive-sentenced-18-months-jail-trade-secret-theft-google
  15. ^ "Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding Executive Grants of Clemency". trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov. January 19, 2021.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ a b c "At 23, Anthony Levandowski is already a veteran businessman". www.berkeley.edu. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  18. ^ a b McCullagh, Declan (September 26, 2008). "Robotic Prius takes itself for a spin around SF". CNET. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  19. ^ a b c d e f Harris, Mark (November 19, 2014). "The Unknown Start-up That Built Google's First Self-Driving Car". IEEE Spectrum. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  20. ^ ""Ghostrider" Robot Motorcycle". National Museum of American History. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  21. ^ a b "Full Page Reload". IEEE Spectrum: Technology, Engineering, and Science News. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  22. ^ a b c d e Harris, Mark (August 27, 2017). "God Is a Bot, and Anthony Levandowski Is His Messenger". Wired. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  23. ^ Higgins, Jack Nicas and Tim (May 23, 2017). "Google vs. Uber: How One Engineer Sparked a War". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved June 16, 2020.
  24. ^ a b 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.
  25. ^ "Robotic Prius Takes Itself For A Spin". www.cbsnews.com. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  26. ^ "Uber to deploy self-driving cars in Pittsburgh". BBC News. August 18, 2016. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  27. ^ "Full Page Reload". IEEE Spectrum: Technology, Engineering, and Science News. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  28. ^ a b Markoff, John (May 17, 2016). "Want to Buy a Self-Driving Car? Big-Rig Trucks May Come First". The New York Times. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  29. ^ "Introducing Otto, the startup rethinking commercial trucking". Medium. Otto. May 17, 2016. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  30. ^ a b Harris, Mark (November 28, 2016). "How Otto defied Nevada and scored a $680m payout from Uber". Wired. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  31. ^ Harris, Mark (February 27, 2017). "How my public records request triggered Waymo's self-driving car lawsuit". Wired. Retrieved September 29, 2017.
  32. ^ "Uber acquires Otto to lead Uber's self-driving car effort". TechCrunch. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  33. ^ "Uber's First Self-Driving Fleet Arrives in Pittsburgh This Month". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
  34. ^ "Uber Parks Its Self-Driving Truck Project, Saying It Will Push For Autonomous Cars". NPR.org. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  35. ^ Davies, Alex (December 18, 2018). "Self-Driving's Outcast Returns With a Robotruck Scheme". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  36. ^ Salinas, Sara (December 18, 2018). "Anthony Levandowski claims cross-country trip in self-driving car". www.cnbc.com. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  37. ^ "Anthony Levandowski is back with a new self-driving startup, called Kache.ai". TechCrunch. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  38. ^ a b "Waymo v. Uber: Surprise Settlement Five Days into Trial". Harvard Journal of Law & Technology. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
  39. ^ "A note on our lawsuit against Otto and Uber". Medium. February 23, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  40. ^ "Alphabet's Waymo Alleges Uber Stole Self-Driving Secrets". Bloomberg.com. February 23, 2017. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  41. ^ Chafkin, Max; Bergen, Mark (March 16, 2017). "Did Uber Steal the Driverless Future From Google?". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  42. ^ 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.
  43. ^ a b Mike Isaac (2019). Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber. W. W. Norton. ISBN 9780393652246.
  44. ^ 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.
  45. ^ "Waymo pursued arbitration with Anthony Levandowski before it sued Uber". TechCrunch. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
  46. ^ Isaac, Mike (March 4, 2020). "Star Engineer Who Crossed Google Is Ordered to Pay $179 Million to Company". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 7, 2020.
  47. ^ a b "Levandowski Says Uber Must Arbitrate Contract Fight - Law360". www.law360.com. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
  48. ^ Henning, Peter J. (September 10, 2019). "What Is a Trade Secret? A Key Question in the Case Against Anthony Levandowski". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 9, 2020.
  49. ^ 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.
  50. ^ Mullin, Joe (May 30, 2017). "Uber engineer Levandowski, accused of massive theft from Google, has been fired". Ars Technica. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  51. ^ Feiner, Lauren; Zaveri, 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.
  52. ^ "Levandowski Cuts Plea Deal To End Google IP Theft Charges". Law360. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
  53. ^ Albergotti, Reed (March 19, 2020). "Ex-Uber executive Anthony Levandowski pleads guilty to trade-secret theft". Washington Post. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
  54. ^ "Former Uber self-driving head Levandowski agrees to plea deal over Google secrets". Reuters. March 19, 2020. Retrieved March 20, 2020.
  55. ^ Sara O'Brien. "Former Uber self-driving car exec sentenced to 18 months in prison". CNN Business. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
  56. ^ "Former Google Engineer Levandowski to Plead Guilty to Theft". Bloomberg News. March 19, 2020. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  57. ^ "Ex-Google self-driving engineer pleads guilty to trade secrets theft".
  58. ^ "Anthony Levandowski sentenced to 18 months in prison, as new $4B lawsuit against Uber is filed". TechCrunch. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
  59. ^ Information, Amir Efrati. "Briefing: Ex-Google Engineer Levandowski Sentenced to 18 Months in Prison". The Information. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
  60. ^ "Anthony Levandowski sentenced to 18 months in prison, as new $4B lawsuit against Uber is filed". TechCrunch. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
  61. ^ Adam Satariano (January 20, 2021). "Anthony Levandowski, an engineer who stole trade secrets, receives a Trump pardon". New York Times.

External links[edit]