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Ex-Uber Engineer Accused of Spying on Tesla, Stealing Trade Secrets

The engineer at the guts of the upcoming Waymo vs Uber trial is dealing with dramatic new allegations of business wrongdoing, this time from a former nanny.

Erika Wong, who says she cared for Anthony Levandowski’s two youngsters from December 2016 to June 2017, filed a lawsuit in California this month accusing him of breaking a protracted listing of employment legal guidelines. The grievance alleges the failure to pay wages, labor and well being code violations, and the intentional infliction of emotional misery, amongst different issues.

Yet on this uncommon 81-page grievance, Wong additionally speculates about a big swath of Levandowski’s private and enterprise dealings. She experiences a fantastic selection of particulars, together with dozens of overheard names, the license-plate numbers of vehicles she noticed at a Levandowski property, and an intensive listing of the BDSM gear she claims he stored in his bed room.

Though the lawsuit comprises some apparent inaccuracies—similar to stating that Levandowski is a resident of Oakland County, California, which doesn’t exist—Wong’s claims increase new questions on Levandowski’s enterprise conduct. In her grievance, Wong alleges that Levandowski was paying a Tesla engineer for updates on its electrical truck program, promoting microchips overseas, and creating new startups utilizing stolen commerce secrets and techniques. Her grievance additionally describes Levandowski reacting to the arrival of the Waymo lawsuit towards Uber, strategizing with then-Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and discussing fleeing to Canada to flee prosecution.

Levandowski’s outdoors dealings whereas employed at Google and Uber have been central themes in Waymo’s commerce secrets and techniques case. Waymo says that Levandowski took 14,000 technical information associated to laser-ranging lidar and different self-driving applied sciences with him when he left Google to work at Uber. He just isn’t a celebration to the unique Waymo grievance towards Uber, nevertheless, and no legal prices have but been filed towards him. Levandowski has persistently exercised his Fifth Amendment rights and never responded to allegations in that go well with.

An announcement on the Wong lawsuit from Levandowski’s spokesperson is unequivocal: “On January 5, a frivolous lawsuit was filed against Anthony Levandowski in US District Court. The allegations in the lawsuit are a work of fiction. Levandowski is confident that the lawsuit will be dismissed by the courts.” Little is understood about Wong, who didn’t instantly reply to a request for an interview. She says within the grievance medical background earned her a higher-than-average wage for a nanny; that she had taken regulation courses; and that she had produced a brief movie on Sebastian Thrun, who led the early growth of Google’s self-driving automobile.

In the grievance, Wong describes a scene from Feb. 23 of final yr, the day Waymo filed its lawsuit towards Uber. When Wong arrived for work that night, she says she noticed Levandowski strolling in circles in the lounge, sweating profusely and speaking to his lawyer, Miles Ehrlich, on the cellphone.

According to court docket information, Wong recollects Levandowski screaming, “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! How could they do this to me? Miles, what about the clause, you … said this would work! What do I do with the discs? What do the contracts say? It’s all mine, the money, the deals, it’s all mine. What about ‘the shit?’ These are all my fucking deals!”

On March 11, a day after Waymo filed a movement for an injunction towards Uber, Wong describes Levandowski texting her to say he was bringing his boss dwelling with him. Half an hour later, she says, Kalanick and Levandowski arrived, bringing with them a white bucket containing circuit boards and lenses, in addition to authorized paperwork for Levandowski to signal. She writes that Kalanick spent about 5 hours at Levandowski’s dwelling.

Every week later, Wong recollects Levandowski saying to his stepmother, Suzanna Musick, “Make sure Pat Green gets paid.” (Musick has deep connections with Levandowski’s firms. Google’s first self-driving Prius was nonetheless registered in her identify lengthy after 510 Systems, the startup that constructed it, was offered to the tech large.)

Wong had heard the identical identify in conversations between Levandowski and Randy Miller, his school good friend and enterprise companion on a number of development offers. On April 6, in accordance with the grievance, Green’s identify got here up once more in discussions with Miller, this time related to updates from Tesla’s electrical trucking division. Wong’s grievance says that on April 27 she overheard Levandowski and his brother Mike speaking about how Levandowski would possibly drive as much as Alberta, Canada, to keep away from jail. She recollects Levandowski telling his brother, “Just arrange with Suzanna, dad, and Hazlett [another relative] to keep working with Pat Green. I need updates on Tesla trucking, the non-lidar technology is crucial and Nvidia chips. We can make money on both.”

During May and June, the go well with states, Wong remembers Levandowski calling his sister steadily and asking, “Did you get any packages from Google or Pat Green?”

There is a senior manufacturing tools engineer referred to as Patrick Green working at Tesla on new merchandise, in accordance with a profile on LinkedIn, however neither Green nor Tesla responded to requests for remark and no different public proof seems to hyperlink this particular person to Levandowski. Tesla has lengthy been working on an electrical self-driving truck, which was lastly unveiled in November because the Semi. Levandowski has an funding in autonomous trucking as the bulk shareholder in Otto Trucking, a self-driving truck startup initially named as a co-defendant within the Waymo case. Otto Trucking owns self-driving vans based mostly at Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco.

According to Wong’s grievance, on the similar assembly Levandowski additionally requested his brother Mike to maintain “paying off Haslim and others.” This possible refers to James Haslim, the lidar engineer who was employed by Levandowski to work at his startup Tyto Lidar. Tyto was acquired by Otto and, in flip, by Uber, the place Haslim nonetheless works. Uber declined to remark on the allegation and didn’t make Haslim out there for an interview.

This grievance makes clear that Wong additionally thinks Levandowski is promoting commerce secrets and techniques, lidar expertise, and processors to clients overseas. She recollects a dialog on June three during which she says he advised her, “I don’t plan on going to prison, the money is in the chip sales.” On one other cellphone name a number of weeks later, in accordance with court docket information, she heard him say, “I’m rich as fuck. Boom-mother fucker! Fuck Travis! Fuck Uber! I’m taking the world over with all these deals, microchips sales all over the world.”

The doc additionally particulars Wong’s perception that Levandowski had a hand in forming a number of startups not publicly linked to him. For instance, the grievance describes Wong overhearing a dialog between Levandowski and his enterprise companions about ex-Google engineer Bryan Salesky’s autonomous car startup Argo.AI. She then advised within the grievance that Levandowski might need had a task in creating the corporate whereas at Uber. Yet Google founder Larry Page testified in a deposition for the Waymo case that stress between Levandowski and Salesky at Google “wouldn’t be surprising.” Argo.AI tells WIRED that Levandowski was not concerned within the formation of the corporate in any approach. And Ford, which owns a majority stake in Argo.AI, says the startup had not but acquired the identify “Argo” on the time of the alleged dialog.

Wong additionally suggests within the grievance that Levandowski helped create JingChi Corporation, an autonomous expertise startup based by Qing Lu, a former government at lidar firm Velodyne, in March 2017. The grievance cites as proof a number of conferences between Levandowski and Michael Jellen, Velodyne’s president. When contacted, Qing Lu and Velodyne additionally denied Wong’s conclusions. WIRED may discover no public proof linking Levandowski to both Argo.AI or JingChi.

Wong is in search of damages of over $6 million. Levandowski has been served with a summons, and an preliminary case administration convention is scheduled for early April. If Levandowski was anticipating his authorized woes to finish with the Waymo case subsequent month, he might should buckle up for an extended journey.

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