Google says its self-driving-car lead Anthony Levandowski made $US120 million in incentives while secretively building Otto, a competing company eventually acquired by Uber, according to an arbitration demand filed by Google against Levandowski and another employee on Monday.
The arbitration demand is the latest turn in the bombshell lawsuit Google filed against the ride-hailing service in February. Waymo, the self-driving-car company owned by Google’s parent company, is suing Uber over claims that it stole the design and intellectual property for its lidar system, a key component of self-driving cars that allows them to detect obstacles.
The suit claims Levandowski stole the lidar technology while working on Google’s self-driving-car project in order to launch a competing venture, Otto. Uber later acquired Otto in a deal worth $US680 million.
Levandowski made $US120 million in incentive payments for his contributions to Google’s self-driving-car project while building Otto, a company meant to compete with Google, the arbitration demand says.
Levandowski’s alleged side ventures
Google claims Levandowski began working on a competing venture as early as 2012.
Levandowski developed two competing side businesses, Odin Wave and Tyto Lidar, while working at Google, the arbitration demand claims. Odin Wave was incorporated as early as August 2012.
Google questioned Levandowski about his affiliation with Odin Wave in mid-2013 after it ordered a custom part that was similar to one used in Google’s laser tech for self-driving vehicles, according to the document. Google became suspicious Levandowski was involved in Odin Wave after the order was placed, but he denied any ownership in the company.
Odin then merged with Tyto to develop a lidar module in February 2014, the arbitration demand reads. Levandowski even participated in Google’s investigation as to whether to acquire Tyto for its self-driving-car project, according to the document. Tyto eventually merged with Otto in 2016 just a few months prior to the Uber acquisition.
Levandowski began convincing employees from Google’s self-driving-car project to quit and join Otto in fall 2015, the arbitration demand claims. Levandowski then allegedly hid these efforts from Google during that time in order to be eligible to collect his incentive payments totaling $US120 million for his work on Google’s car project.
Levandowski quit Google after to nine years to found Otto in January 2016. Uber did not immediately reply to Business Insider’s request for comment.
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