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Uber’s Anthony Levandowski out as Advanced Technologies lead amid legal fight (techcrunch.com)
397 points by petergatsby on Apr 27, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 201 comments

Worth remembering that Google paid this guy over $120 Million in compensation. He is a tech "1%"er, which really is saying a lot. That is hedge fund money.

I'm not certain, but I think the average engineer would feel more loyalty to a company that has given them multi-generational wealth.

I'm all for engineers getting paid, but in this case the guy didn't even have to do what most wealthy engineers do: deliver an actual successful product to market.

> I'm all for engineers getting paid, but in this case the guy didn't even have to do what most wealthy engineers do: deliver an actual successful product to market.

Anthony's efforts led to Streetview and Maps improvements. Waymo is still using his LIDAR research. I think Anthony is totally screwed with this lawsuit, but I wouldn't belittle his engineering accomplishments.

The guy built a self-driving motorcycle. I laughed at the first DARPA Grand Challenge when it travelled 30cm before falling over. I ate my words the next year when it made it most of the way.

By comparison, after a year of learning to ride a motorbike I barely make it to work each day without shitting myself.

Why does he get all of the credit for this? He was part of a team.

Sure, but he was the team leader. I was part of a team that built autonomous vehicles too, but the fact that there were others involved doesn't stop me writing "built an autonomous vehicle" on my CV.

There was no team without him, period.

Why do you say that?

on the other hand there was no stolen intellectual property without him either.

I for sure would have remembered some rinky dink motorcycle lining up for the start in Primm in 2005. His team didn't make it past the NQE in LA, IIRC.

The physical object is in the Smithsonian [1]. There's footage of it falling over in 2005 [2][3]. Is that enough? :-P

1) http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah... 2) http://www.gettyimages.com.au/detail/news-photo/the-blue-tea... 3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1bkhviWgSg

Alas, no.

The 2005 Grand Challenge was divided into two parts: the national qualification event, where you went around an obstacle course on a closed raceway in an effort to qualify for a limited number of race slots, and the real race, which was a brutal 150 mile course through some pretty gnarly desert terrain.

Blue Team never made it past the NQE, which is why everyone's obsession with the motorbike makes no sense to those of us who actually made it to the real deal.

The Smithsonian's decision to memorialize Levandowski's engineering mediocrity is, to say the least, puzzling.

Ah, understood. Thanks for clarifying that, and apologies for misrepresenting the achievement!

You missed his creative brilliance, he couldn't compete head on with other teams, but he had a more economical vehicle while upping the stakes.

Video of the guy and his bike https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CYGT97i8qU

If that blows your mind then you should watch this: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XFXj81mvInc

...and keep in mind that this was done around 1990.

Oh, I'm not. But I don't think the other Maps engineers took home $100 Million.

Google clearly thought it was in their best interest, but I stand by what I said: As an engineer, the most well beaten path to wealth is building something that sells. To get paid and not even have to do that is itself something of an accomplishment, though not one I'd be very proud of.

According to The Verge article on Levandowski, that is why he left GoogleX/Waymo: they wouldn't ship. And he was too outspoken to be in charge of Google X self-driving.

Just curious, do you have an inside scoop on what value he's brought to Google and other companies?

In these types of situations where a lot of money is involved, I've noticed folks are pretty quick to vilify someone with little information aside from the heavily biased info that leaks into the news.

While $120MM in a vacuum does sound ridiculous, it's hard to know (or even put a price on) his true value without understanding his contributions in depth.

This criticism doesn't extend to you, but in general I've seen a lot of the same folks make snap judgements about someone's ability based on what they've read from news and then vehemently decry how job interviews (which yield far more information) aren't effective at judging someone's worth.

I think I've not made myself clear. I don't vilify $100mm pay days. Honestly engineering doesn't usually take home what I think it deserves. But to get $120 mill and be building competing startups the entire time seems pretty sleazy. I don't know where I'd draw the line of "you are being fully compensated for your time" but I'd say $10+ mill a year clears it.

Also, if they valued his equity grants at $120mm and he held much, he likely netted far more.

Not many words would be written about his pay day if he made a clean break from google before building a competing product.

The problem is that if this is proven against him then this is all people will remember of him. It is a real fall from his accomplishments.

> but I wouldn't belittle his engineering accomplishments.

It's not belittling engineering efforts if one states that rewarding a non-production research project with 120 million would be adequate in a lot of cases.

I really don't understand how people get greedy after earning that much money. Is it just the high/excitement the comes from it? Seems like money would no longer be motivating.

Many people around the world would say the same thing about the lifestyle enjoyed by the average commenter on this forum, but most of us don't think of our incomes that way. The average American does not need to live in the home size that has become desirable; they do it because they can.

You can't set an arbitrary limit on when money ceases to be motivating. At $100M in net worth, you no longer need to compromise on a lot of things that people with a $1M net worth have to. But at a $1M net worth, you also do not have to compromise on a lot of things that people with a $100k net worth have to, and so on and so forth.

If I had a net worth of over $100M, I'd probably still do things that increase it. That doesn't seem any more inherently greedy than my seeking to increase my net worth now, when it's orders of magnitude lower. I'd do it because it's what I know to do, and because more resources is rationally better than fewer resources.

Here's Keynes with another perspective:

> When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

I like that quote, but I disagree with it. I don't think "love of money as a possession" is a good thing, but I think it's pretty rare compared to the "love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life."

One of the most life-changing experiences I've ever had was swimming in a bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico. I've never seen so many stars overhead in contrast to absolute darkness (you have to be in remote darkness to enjoy the bioluminescence). The sky was absolutely clear and every sensory detail felt enhanced and euphoric.

That vacation was a relatively expensive week for me. It didn't have to be as expensive as it was, but it couldn't have been significantly cheaper either. With $100M, I could fly down to Puerto Rico and do that every weekend, weather permitting.

But here's the thing - I'm sure that experience can be had (in principle, not exact detail) in every country in the world. With $20,000, you can carefully plan a backpacking trip through Europe. With $100M, you can have virtually any experience in Europe with instant gratification. Have you ever looked at Myspace Tom's Instagram? All the man does is travel around the world to interesting places taking photos. He doesn't necessarily do things people can't do with significantly less wealth, but he 1) doesn't have to choose which things to do and 2) does them casually, because he is virtually immune to financial catastrophe.

Money is freedom, because you can (in limited effect) trade it for time. I think most people love money because they love the time it can buy them, not because it is an end in of itself.

But the discussion is about why do you need more than $100M. All you are describing is well within the realm of $100m. Even low ten millions is plenty -- let's say you arrive to 20M when you are 30 years old and expect to live another 60 years. This means that if you set aside 5M for safety etc you still can have a $20k "salary" every month if the money is invested in a way that it keeps up with inflation. That's a $5k plane ticket, 200 USD/night hotel room and 300 USD/day on food and such. Forever. And that's just 20M.

One simple reason why I think it may make sense to want more money is to do interesting important things. If you earn more money, the market obviously thinks you're good at producing things that sell. It's not perfect as sometimes the market (e.g. the people) prefers something rather stupid. However, in general, I think entrepreneurs are the ultimate redistributors of money in the society. I don't believe government is effecient at doing the same job: it doesn't care whether it wastes it, it always knows it will get its share (taxation is not voluntary) and it's filled with people who have no idea how to actually make a useful product. An entrepreneur earned his money by people voluntarily giving it to him for something they want. He knows what a failure is.

So yeah, I think wanting to earn a lot of money is great and no one should feel ashamed of wanting that.

If "love of money as a possession" is so rare, then how come so many people who have huge amounts of money don't spend it?

Anyway, the general point here is that as you acquire more dollars, the relative value (to you) of a dollar diminishes. That's all the parent post was saying.

It does seems somewhat bizarre to see someone so successful still behave so ruthlessly in order to make money. Of course, that's my snap judgement. Levandowski may not be motivated by money at all. Although I doubt he's motivated by weekend trips to Puerto Rico either.

Love of money as a possession: Warren Buffett was at a party where the wine they were serving to everyone cost about $150 a glass. When they came to him with a bottle, offering him a refill, he said "No thanks. I'd rather have the cash."

He didn't say: "No thanks. I don't like wine. I'd rather have a Cherry Coke." It wasn't an issue of taste preference.

People like Buffett love to play the game of maximizing return on a dollar invested, maximizing the quantity of dollars owned. Dollar accumulation is a game, a fascination, an obsession. For these people, the experience of having more dollars is not only the bioluminescent bay, it's every bioluminescent bay. There's nothing else that feels as great as increasing the dollar horde.

I take your point, but that story sounds really apocryphal. It's hard to imagine someone refusing wine like that. Why not just say, "No thanks!"?

Also that party sounds tacky as hell.

>Many people around the world would say the same thing about the lifestyle enjoyed by the average commenter on this forum, but most of us don't think of our incomes that way. The average American does not need to live in the home size that has become desirable; they do it because they can.

This really isn't true. Middle-class Americans who don't make enough money to sustain their current situation are at significant risk: 1) they can lose their ability to keep paying their mortgage, and then lose their home to foreclosure, or their car to repossession. Their car is what enables their lifestyle, their career, etc. Their home is where they live. They could downsize some of this stuff, but only so much: if you go too cheap on housing, you're now living in a bad neighborhood, which can be extremely dangerous. If you don't have enough money for good health insurance, your health is now at risk. Medicaid usually isn't available to poor adults who are able-bodied, and many healthcare providers refuse to accept it.

There's a reason many people have as their long-term goal to pay off their house ASAP, and to get out of debt, because that means that they're now in a position to afford their current lifestyle but with a significantly lower income, which reduces their risk immensely.

People who are millionaires and up do not have these concerns in the slightest. Going from a $20M mansion to a $750K house is not going to affect your personal safety in the slightest, but going from that to a $500 house in Detroit definitely will.

If you're motivated by money, you're really motivated by having the most of it. And in that sphere, $120MM isn't actually that much.

From everything I've read, he didn't leave because of the money. He left because Google didn't ship. When you want to build a SDC future and that's what you're passionate about you go wherever will support that dream. Google started as that company and was overtaken by a company that was more supportive.

When seemingly conspiring with Uber to defraud Google to a nine-figure tune, ascribing his motivations to the latter's "failure to ship" is quite...generous.

Exactly. Given what he did, that just sounds wrong.

The only thing that money changes is the size of your bills.

— Douglas Adams (1952 - 2001)

Maybe he wants to self-fund his next big idea?

Sure, but whatever he was or wasn't able to negotiate in compensation shouldn't drive the outcome here. He and his (former) employer came to a mutually agreeable deal; how much or how little that number was doesn't change the facts in this case unless I'm missing something?

I'm pretty sure they were making a moral argument, not a legal one.

I think his exceptionalism can be accounted for based on the lawsuit.

That's just Uber trying avoid having their self-driving car department shut-down. But it could definitely still happen. Maybe Uber should apply to Google's 'PatentShield' program ;)

That would be hilarious (the Patentshield application). It is also rare to have one of these disputes happening with such wide visibility. And reading the coverage so far it sounds like Levandowski chose to interpret the meaning of his employment agreement with Google much more charitably than Google does (which is somewhat expected on Google's part). I went back and looked at mine from 2006 (which was the year earlier version so they could have been fairly similar) and its pretty clear about what steps you need to take to clear your "side projects" with Google. The most obvious being you have to ask permission.

Challenging times indeed.

It's all the more interesting because Google makes it ridiculously easy to ask for that permission and get a legally unambiguous go or no go for any side projects. It's not like this would have been murky waters.

there was a joke posting on an internal alias that showed the internal /etc/aliases file for Google which had the mailing list going to '|/usr/bin/no'[1] :) I would be interested to know if anyone still there had ever tried that and gotten a yes answer. The three times I used the process it was always denied.

[1] To understand the meta-joke there is actually a /usr/bin/yes program but in the standard distribution there isn't a /usr/bin/no :-)

I've never seen anyone get a yes for money making side projects. For Open Source projects which uses a slightly different process I've seen people get permission to do them without an explicit CLA.

It's pretty hard to find something on the internet or in commerce that isn't somehow competing with Google.

My co-worker worked on some games to sell on the android play market.

From Google's official opensource documentation on IARC[0]: We don’t approve every project submitted through this process, but historically we’ve been able to rapidly approve the vast majority of them.

I personally have had one IARC approved and one denied (and something like a dozen opensource launches), but from what I've seen, the above statement is accurate.

[0] https://opensource.google.com/docs/iarc/

Open source yes, but if it might earn you a bit of coin, then generally no.

I work at Google and had a proprietary side project approved despite explicitly stating that I might make money from it. It's not a billion dollar idea or anything, but they didn't automatically say no. Meanwhile a tiny open source project I wanted to keep maintaining got denied rather rudely. I don't understand the process, but it is possible to get an approval. However the fact that you are supposed to ask for an approval to live your own life in your free time does kind of suck the soul out of it.

Excellent! It is nice to know that it is at least possible to get some things approved.


  /usr/bin/yes no
will yield you a working "no" program :).

I'm disappointed that symlinking to 'no' still produces 'y' when called. Oh well, that'll have to be an alias then.

Also, /usr/bin/yes will echo anything you give it.

Ah, the Indian head wobble.

If by working you mean an infinite stream of "no"'s. Can google's email servers handle that, or do they need to bring back Google Wave to deliver an infinite stream of "no"'s in realtime, one keypress at a time? Or can they map/reduce an infinite stream of "no"'s into a single "no"?

I know of someone who got an explicit yes, but the project was a toy and didn't really require it.

And it's also fairly clear that this would have been a 'no'.

Consider Google's investment in Uber! "The $258 million is an 86 percent chunk of Google Ventures’ $300 million dollar a year fund, and it’s unclear whether the firm will continue to make such sizable investments." - https://techcrunch.com/2013/08/22/google-ventures-puts-258m-...

Uber could really play that to their advantage: "Your Honor, Google is just trying to soften us up because they don't get their way in the boardroom..."

Having two roles in a lawsuit is a very dangerous thing, no matter how much their ex employee is at fault here they could easily make a lot of smoke out of that.

How does that actually play out? Google Ventures and Google's self-driving car were both "Google" when that investment was made, but now Waymo and GV are ostensibly separate entities. Is Alphabet suing Uber, or is Waymo suing Uber?

Waymo is a wholly-owned subsidiary; there's not going to be much distinction here. Not that I agree with the parent poster: the equity ownership is unlikely to be relevant to the case. People have successfully sued their own corporations and other bizarre legal actions.

Maybe Uber has realized that this guy is toxic and can't be trusted handling "their" tech? If he spent a decade stealing Google's tech, are they willing to risk him treating Uber the same way? Especially since Uber's epic level of sliminess would make it even easier for Levandowski to rationalize theft.

Some sleazebag at Uber hired him exactly for that reason. Levandowski got caught. The question is how deep does this trail go?

That sleazebag would be Kalanick then, given the evidence of their romantic after dinner walks.

'Kalanick began courting Levandowski this spring, broaching the possibility of an acquisition during a series of 10-mile night walks from the Soma neighborhood where Uber is also headquartered to the Golden Gate Bridge. The two men would leave their offices separately—to avoid being seen by employees, the press, or competitors. They’d grab takeout food, then rendezvous near the city’s Ferry Building. Levandowski says he saw a union as a way to bring the company’s trucks to market faster.'

How are those trucks coming along, haha.

Just like the old saying, "you lose 'em how you get 'em."

Maybe Google should hire him back.

Why on earth would they ever do that? Why would anybody hire him? He may be good but he's also damaged goods with a serious trust issue attached to his name. Hire me and you'll get sued by the largest tech companies on the planet is not a really good opener for a job interview.

They should hire him back to get some of Uber's secrets because of his duplicity. That was the joke.

With 100 Millions he still can create the company that will hire him.

If he gets to keep it.

I thought you quit HN?

That would be the end of uber... not immediately, but it would seal their fate.

Can this conceivably make a difference at this late stage? Genuinely curious. Surely if a judge accepts the theory that Levandowski helped Uber's program along with stolen IP, having him 'no longer working on the program' at this stage would have to look like window dressing. Doesn't it just make them look worse, like they are admitting that there's a problem?

It just might tip the balance to not having the program shut down, which is what the injunction is asking for. So by not waiting until a verdict but to pre-emptively remove him they hope that enough of this sticks to Levandowski that does not directly stick to Uber that they will be allowed to continue the program. It's a hail Mary pass at best.

> Can this conceivably make a difference at this late stage?

If they are working on alternative technology not under legal cloud in case thet lose the Waymo battle in a way which doesn't block all future work, yes, having Levandowski's​ hands off of it makes a huge difference.

It probably makes no difference in the Waymo fight, though.

A damages award could be large enough to change the economics of Uber's project.

Is there any reason not to be suspicious that Levandowski will just work on them unofficially?

It's worse than that, a lot.

Let's just assume that uber has some google technology. If they completely fire levandowsky, then he effectively becomes a third party in the case. Given the choice, google doesn't care about him, they care about uber beating them to market with their own tech. Google could drop him from the case in exchange for aiding in an uber loss. uber has to keep him close and happy, whatever that means...

Now if Uber really hasn't done anything wrong, and they may not actually know, but if we assume they are completely innocent then he can't directly hurt them if they fire him, he might sue them or collect a golden parachute but it makes uber look better.

Probably not going to matter either way - Google's got them dead to rights, will likely win a complete injunction against the program...

That and Uber pissed off the wrong people by stealing Levandowski after Google had bought his company. And that after Google had invested in Uber.

No Levandowski pissed off the wrong people by stealing core technology from Google. Stealing employees is OK. Technology is not. It is the law.

Not all legal things are right. Not all illegal things are wrong.

To be clear, I am not saying Lewandowski's actions are right; I'm saying your argument does not sufficiently justify its wrongness.

Yes, that is what I meant. The stealing of trade secrets (illegal) was on top of the stealing of employees (legal) which was on top of the investment (speculation). But add it all up and Google is going to make an example out of Uber.

And it's twice as impactful because it's happening simultaneously with other disastrous events and sexual harassment lawsuits. News love big names with big drama.

This is analysis from The Information, which is a pay-only publication:

"But Mr. Levandowski is still at Uber, reporting to his replacement, Eric Meyhofer. One person who knows both men said Mr. Meyhofer was considered to be Mr. Levandowski’s “shill.” So color us unimpressed by the move, which could just be smoke and mirrors."

Presumption of innocence. You have to assume that the people are innocent until they are proven guilty. If you fired Levandowski and win the case, then he sues. If you leave him in place and you're found guilty, there are extra damages because you were "notified" and you still didn't stop his work. So you move him off to the side, wait for the trial to resolve. And then figure out what to do with him, which will be either fire him or move him back on to the project.

> You have to assume that the people are innocent until they are proven guilty.

You only have to do that when you are the trier of fact (jury in a jury trial, judge in a bench trial) in a criminal prosecution.

Outside of that, the rules are different.

> If you fired Levandowski and win the case, then he sues.

And loses, because at-will employment, and being suspected, even wrongly, of civil wrongdoing creating liability for your employer is not a protected class.

If he has an employment contract as is likely as the chief executive of an acquired company, and by firing him essentially without cause (the allegations are unproven) he was owed significant compensation which was denied him presuming it was for cause. He would sue for breach of contract. But we do not know his arrangement with the company.

Yeah, I am always confused by people who seem to think you need a good reason to fire someone. In almost every state, this isn't the case; as long as you don't fire someone for one of the defined illegal reasons, you are fine. You can fire someone because you flipped a coin, or because you just felt like firing someone.

That depends on the jury (and therefore the jurisdiction) actually. There have been several times when I made this argument in favor of removing some employee who was actively working to destroy a team and was made to jump through lots of hoops by corporate lawyers fearful of lawsuits.

Well, they would have to convince a jury that they were actually fired for one of the protected reasons. Often times lawyers will want you to document the reasons you are firing someone so that you can use them as a defense against a lawsuit claiming you fired them for a protected reason.

Right, but that process gives the lie to "at will" employment.

"I've never seen a trial I couldn't lose" - An attorney friend of mine.

Some breath-taking Dunning-Krueger effect here.

"The situation raises questions about the future of Mr. Levandowski at the company. When Uber’s lawyer told the court that the company could not force him to testify, Judge Alsup said Uber had the right to order him to cooperate or be fired."


On who's part?

Isn't this a civil case, i.e., nobody is charging either Levandowski or Uber with a crime?

And isn't Uber a) not a court of law, and therefore not obligated to presume innocence, and b) an at-will employer, who can terminate Levandowski merely for making life hard for them, whether or not he was responsible?

Yes it is a civil case, and it is a valid point about the lack of a criminal complaint. My explanation is inadequate.

The burden of proof in a theft of trade secrets argument is on the plaintiff[1,2]. Google needs to prove Levandowski stole trade secrets, it does not require Uber to prove that he didn't.

I am also presuming that Uber has an employment contract with Levandowski which includes earn outs as part of the Otto acquisition. This is common practice. And if my presumption is correct, he is not an 'at will' employee, there are specific guidelines around termination and the responsibilities of each party should they decide to separate. It is entirely possible that if they were to ask him to leave, and he had yet to be proven to have stolen secrets or misreprented his ownership of the IP he brought, Uber could conceivably owe him the balance of all earn outs immediately.

[1] "Illinois law applied to the case and Illinois has passed the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. This Uniform Act is the law in 46 of the 50 states. To prevail on a trade secrets claim under the Act, a plaintiff must prove that: (1) it has information qualifying as a trade secret; (2) at least one of its trade secrets has been misappropriated; and (3) the defendant used that trade secret in their business activity or inevitably will." -- http://www.btlaw.com/files/Uploads/Documents/Publications/A%...

[2] https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.x....

> The burden of proof in a theft of trade secrets argument is on the plaintiff

Yes, but it's a "preponderance of the evidence" burden which means a literally any evidence for each of the required elements can meet it, if not countered by stronger evidence on the other side. "Proof" in law doesn't mean the same as in mathematics. (And in civil law, not even what it means in criminal law.)

Umm, that's a criminal rights issue. This is a civil case. The rules are quite different.

There is no assumption of innocence here.

he'll work for them _officially_.

>Levandowski will remain at Uber, despite his role change

That's precisely what I meant. He's supposedly working in a completely unrelated position; what's to stop him from helping out on LIDAR stuff?

i heard he'll be working on a new self-driving car initiative called RADIL. not LIDAR at all.

There's no reason to believe that Levandowski is an irreplaceable engineer, is there?

He's one of the top experts in self driving technology, a motorcycle he and a team built in college is in the Smithsonian. I can see Uber wanting to keep him on unofficially.

"He and a team" - I'd be curious to see the extent of his technical contribution, given that he's billed as the team leader and seems to be taking a lot of the credit here. In my experience, 'team leaders' who end up with the credit for the finished product do so because they spent all their time self-promoting rather than actually, y'know, building the product.

While I've personally seen examples of the team leader getting credit for being a self-promoter, I'm not convinced. I've also seen groups where the team leader was the most passionate, and really was the driving force for the project.

I do not know which he is, but I'm not in a position to pass judgement.

Yes, but he seems to be in irreplaceable social engineer.

A lot of people are blaming Levandwoski for deceiving Google as though he were some sort of evil mastermind. Given the lack of care he's taken to hide from these inevitable accusations, one must question the intelligence of his actions. Instead, I think there might be a more simple explanation.

Levandowski is clearly a brilliant character. Is it possible that he's not trying to maximize monetary gain but is instead optimizing for power over the technology? I sense that he's good with technical implementation but possibly terrible at technical leadership/the politics necessary for seeing one's vision through in a larger organization.

If viewed in this light, it seems that Levandowski has constantly been frustrated by the direction (or lack thereof) within the organizations he's been a part of. Rather than starting side companies and jumping ship for profit, he's really just trying to maintain control over whatever vision he has for lidar-enabled self-driving technology.

Now this strategy for power breaks down a bit, because he keeps selecting the local maxima in terms of opportunity. When Google comes calling, he accepts. When Uber comes calling, he accepts. Constantly convinced that the next place will give him the power/respect he thinks he deserves.

In the end, rather than building up IP from scratch and making a good name for himself, he's stolen a bunch of work from other engineers while potentially building a patent-infringing product. (thoughts x-posted from the other thread)

Edit: Just to clarify, I don't agree with anything Levandwoski has done and both he and Uber should face repercussions for their actions. With that said, there's a lot of "conspiracy"-esque hype around this guy that I think may be undeserved. Everyone here seems to be focused on his monetary motivations for acting as he did; I'm simply trying to offer an alternative viewpoint that could explain the situation outside of pure financial gain.

Genuinely curious about the malicious behaviour at the root of this legal battle: if the case, was it worth it from the beginning? I mean, is there a lesson for the millions outsiders out of the SV microsystem reading this? In many different environments, you lose your job, credit and reputation for much less than this and for a fraction of the potential money involved.

The rules are different for the handful of people operating at this level, same as high level politicians who get away with things that would put you or me in federal prison for decades.

So all this drama is kinda pointless. I mentioned in another thread that SV culture actively encourages this kind of behavior and ultimately I think folks buy into the system because everyone deep down thinks they're gonna become a millionaire this way.

I'm only watching because of morbid curiosity and really I have no stake in the outcome whatever it may be. Both companies are equally bad in my opinion and they are making things more and more unsustainable. The modern technology ecosystem feels very unhealthy in general.

>I mentioned in another thread that SV culture actively encourages

That's not true at all. I know the "Pirate" idea is mythologized and tied to the development of the Mac, but even then, Apple actually had a deal with Xerox.

>Both companies are equally bad in my opinion and they are making things more and more unsustainable.

I wouldn't say that. I would say it's a typical dispute. We have courts to settle these kinds of disputes.

>The modern technology ecosystem feels very unhealthy in general.

I wouldn't go that far. Given the pace of change, it's actually pretty solid.

> folks buy into the system because everyone deep down thinks they're gonna become a millionaire this way

Such a perfect summary of why many of the flawed practices of our day persist.

Anthony is overrated and a complete psychopath. He doesn't understand it's basic right from wrong. In his mind IP is boundless and his, not Googles. This comes from 5 years of working in fairly close contact. Zero morals. He is what's wrong with Silicon Valley - on equal grounds to Travis from Uber. I can completely see this all being planned for years just like circumventing the iPhone App Store rules. As a Google shareholder I demand they litigate until Uber and Anthony are where they deserve to be; jail.

I've known him personally, it was clear he'd end up like his hero Gordon Gekko since high school. The saddest part is that he didn't need to, hopefully since he's still young he can redeem him self.

I'm mentally translating that post into what you really think, when not restrained by legal advice...

In your assessment, do you believe Anthony created Otto after discussing a buyout with Travis? In other words do you think it's likely that Travis and Anthony had planned all this before? All the evidence points to Anthony being guilty and Uber likely getting an injunction, but if this was all pre-orchestrated I would like to see jail time

Google claims that Lewandowski visited Uber headquarters to discuss a potential buyout. Obviously it's impossible to know what was said there but the following day Lewandowski quit Google, carrying (as Google claims) every single byte of data related to the autonomous car project.

I say "Google claims" because they haven't proven anything yet but it seems likely, in my opinion, that what they claim is true.

Do you really think he should be in prison for intellectual property infringement?

> intellectual property infringement?

I believe that's a deliberate attempt to illogically equate what Levandowski is being accused of, which is duplicitous, pre-meditated behavior to milk Google out of 100+ million dollars, then take Google's technology to a competitor for another multi-hundred million payout, with something like unintentional patent infringement.

I absolutely believe that if Levandowski is guilty of what he is being accused of that he deserves jail time.

For nine-figure fraud? What would you propose instead?

(It's fraud when you take advantage by ignoring the established legal rules that everyone else is playing by, however suboptimal those rules are.)

Exactly. People routinely get jail time for three orders of magnitude less fraud.

Someone went to prison for stealing $31 in candy bars [1]. At least he only got 2 years: he faced life in prison.

1: http://www.nola.com/traffic/index.ssf/2016/07/candy_thief_an...

There are people in prison for stealing petty items, how would you propose someone that steals something worth millions be punished? Should the fact that it is an idea and information and not a tangible item make a difference?

His theft (supposedly) amounts to nine figures.

The last time something on this magnitude happened was during the financial crisis, and people were (rightly or not) braying for bankers to go to prison.

Are you one of these people?

It's much worse in terms of $$$ compared to most muggings, why shouldn't it be a long term sentence?

This is one of the major disconnects in modern society, stealing huge sums of money by rich middle aged white guys is a minor slap on the wrists but stealing a few dollars by young, black guys is let's send them to the slammer and throw away the key.

It's so blatant and ingrained in the system that you can't even see it.

An obvious difference between IP theft and muggings, however, is that the later also entails threats of violence (and sometimes even assault & battery). That's why robbery is generally considered more heinous than burglary, where the victims are typically not present or asleep. I'd agree though that some sort of dollar figure should be attached to the psychological trauma of being mugged, so that great-enough white-collar crimes can also lead to imprisonment.

I'll bet if you asked most people what they would prefer less, getting beat up or losing $500 million, the would answer the latter.

Which distributed among all Google shareholders is $100 each?

Sure. Basically the guy wronged 5 million people, $100 each. Makes it a significantly greater crime than a comparable mugging of a single victim.

Well, no. Distributed among all Alphabet shareholders it is, from the most recent numbers I've seen, about $85 million each from Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and smaller amounts from everyone else.

Also, in a mugging, the mugged is deprived of whatever was stolen. With IP theft the victim still has use of their IP

There's a difference between illegally downloading a movie instead of paying for it, and stealing technology and using it to bring a competitor to market. The latter is actually taking market share away from the organization it was stolen from, so they are deprived of something tangible.

Not if Uber used his stolen IP to out-compete Google. Then the IP would translate directly into a market opportunity loss.

The difference is the use of violence to threaten someone's life, as opposed to moving some numbers on a screen.

However, plenty of white-collar crime has physical effects. More than a few embezzled retirement funds have led to suicides, for example.

How do you tell someone that a store clerk robbed at knifepoint is much worse than having their retirement nest-egg evaporate because of someone they haven't even met? Serious white-collar crime should be pursued and punished much more than it currently is.

I would happily get smacked around if you promised to 'move around' some significant numbers into my banking account.

Martha Stewart went to jail for making ~$400,000 in insider trading, a far less serious offense.

Actually, they dropped that charge. (Apparently, even if what they thought was true, it would not be considered insider trading legally.). She went to prison for "lying" to investigators about the reasons the sold the stock. 18 U.S.C. § 1001


What's your opinion on what the punishment should be?


If I may ask, what was your working relationship with him?

> As a Google shareholder I demand they litigate until Uber and Anthony are where they deserve to be; jail.

Litigation is civil, not criminal.

There may be criminal charges brought though, and Levandowski himself seems to believe there is significant-enough risk of that to assert his fifth amendment right at a recent hearing.


> Anthony is overrated

Maybe. He did this. http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah.... At least that's what Google tells me :). Given your history with him, do you know how much of this is true?

> and a complete psychopath

Whoa.. When you say psychopath, I'm translating that to 'ruthless without any morals.' Can you give any examples without giving away other people's personal details?

> As a Google shareholder

Waymo is suing Uber. Not Google. I don't think Google shareholders can vote their shares in other Alphabet companies.

GOOG and GOOGL are now shares in Alphabet. [1]

We're all GOOG shareholders if we have a 401(k) with a large-cap index fund. As a GOOG shareholder, I want an Android phone that doesn't run out of battery after 8 hours of typical use, but I'm probably not gonna get it.

1. https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/GOOG?p=^GOOG

You might want to try a Pixel phone. I'm on my third generation of Google phones and this one has the best battery life of all.

It is a great phone, if you can track one down. Google isn't making enough of them it seems.


I just ordered an XL last month and got it in 2 weeks. The blue option was out when I went to order, but maybe they got some of the logistics worked out

> As a GOOG shareholder, I want an Android phone that doesn't run out of battery after 8 hours of typical use, but I'm probably not gonna get it.

Probably not from Google.

Bit my most recent phone (UMi Plus) has a 4000mAh battery that has for the first time gotten me in the habit of not plugging it in at the first sight of a charging cable. It's also helped that it's USB-C and charges faster than any previous Android phone I've had.

There are also a few Android phones with 6000mAh battery, and at least one with a 10,000mAh battery that (unfortunately or fortunately depending on how important the battery life is for you) has a less battery hungry screen (and lower resolution) than most similarly priced phones. (both the 6k and 10k phones I mention are available from AliExpress sellers; read reviews carefully...)

The Google pixel does that already. It runs quite long on a single charge. I think it's due to AMOLED.

Here's an article with some more details on him from 2013.


That really adds context about Levandowski's vision and engineering drive. I wonder if there are any articles about his reported confrontational behavior.

My impression from working at Google was that lack of respect for property is unfortunately part of Google's culture. I've met this mindset on many occasions, so this whole lawsuit, as well as the fact that Levandowski was allowed to rise high at the company, doesn't surprise me a bit. It's just that in this case it was one of their own engineers using it against them, for a change.

I'm at Google too, and for what it's worth, I haven't seen that mindset at all. It sounds like you were on a team with some shitty people or something.

> lack of respect for property is unfortunately part of Google's culture

I've been at Google for more than 7 years and I would not characterize the attitude of any of my colleagues (junior or senior) in this way. If anything, it's the total opposite.

And when you say "property", you mean "intellectual property", right? Those are some pretty different things, you know ;-)

Code, content, project assets, documentation, etc...

Yes. All very different from "car, house, boat".

The meaning of the word "property" extends beyond "car, house, boat".

Sure, but certainly not to code, content, project assets, and documentation.

RMS explains the difference and the intention behind the confusion well: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/not-ipr.en.html

I would love to hear more about this, including any specific examples if you can give them.

- When they acquired my little project (back in 2008) my co-founder and I were told point blank that if we didn't sell to them at a price of their choosing they would just outright copy our product and steal our ideas and do it themselves and we'd get nothing. I don't even think they meant it as much as it was a divide-and-conquer negotiation tactic (which unfortunately worked since my co-founder started to panic after that point and turn against me in the following discussions). We eventually sold (at a low price, given the circumstances) but it kind of set the tone for what would follow. Great way to completely sink an acquisition right from the beginning btw.

- Soon after I started I gave a little demo of what I'd been working on before the acquisition as a side/thesis project. A team related to the one I was working in really liked it and wanted to have it and start a project with it. I was quite honored -- until I found out that the expectation was that I provide everything (code and other resources) for free, since they'd already acquired "my talent", and that would extend even to unrelated stuff that I did before the acquisition (that was literally their argument). It took me two years of explaining and negotiation until they finally paid a modest price for it.

- That not being enough I soon found out that extracting IP from fresh graduates / PhDs is actually quite common at Google. I know many examples where graduates / PhDs were asked to put in code and documentation of their prior/thesis work free of charge. Frankly I think that a lot of fresh graduates don't even realize at that point that they are being screwed out of something that is rightfully theirs (or the universitiy's -- depending on how their contracts were set up).

- The worst came out of people when the perf cycle came up. I've seen it over and over that engineers claimed they "put feature X into Y" when in reality feature X was implemented by another engineer and all they did was contribute some wiring code. Worst of all those kind of tricks not only didn't get caught, but the engineers in question often got rewarded for it.

- And of course the time Google started copying books and put them online for free without asking authors for permission or when they started leeching content off of websites and putting it next to their own ads (see [1]) that's not quite the display of the finest of manners either.

The kicker is that while all these things happened day in day out like it was no big deal most people in the company seemed to be convinced that Google operated on higher ethical standards than other companies. Permanently feeding your employees with "don't be evil" or "do the Googley thing" phrases must have made them think that that was actually the case I guess.

Needless to say I quit on the first day that my "golden handcuffs" came off and never looked back.

[1] https://theoutline.com/post/1399/how-google-ate-celebritynet...

"Do we want to build this or buy this" is a pretty typical decision at all large companies, no? Wouldn't it be supremely strange if Google acquired something without at least considering building it internally?

There's a difference between internally weighing build-vs-buy and openly threatening a pair of hackers in a negotiation with a blatant rip-off.

Fair point: I taught my daughter never to threaten at about 6 years old.

The way I see it, even at Google, small M&A deals are just staffed by a bunch of aggro nerds who have a lot more "egoistic hot shot" than "civilized decorum" about them. It seems possible they were bluffing — getting organizational buy-in and staffing a small project at Google has relatively enormous overhead. So for tiny projects (<$1M), buying is nearly always cheaper.

Best response, I imagine, would be "ok, why don't you guys figure out how much that'll cost you and we'll circle back to talk numbers again. looking forward to it!"

> The way I see it ... deals are just staffed by a bunch of aggro nerds ...

On what facts do you base this perception? If it is Uber we say "culture is set from top". This doesn't apply to Google?

Well this is clear rubbish...

Well, the FOSS movement believes all software belongs to the world, doesn't it?

No, just free software.

But he must be good. $120M+ in compensation.

This line of reasoning is how Bernie Madoff stole $18 billion. "Look at how successful he is! He must be a great investor!"

One way to look at it is that capitalism basically involves two activities: creating value for others and moving money into your very own pocket. Overall, they're correlated. They have to be, or the system would collapse. But in any specific instance, a rich person may only be good at one of them.

Yep. That's Juicero level money.

I'm stealing this as my new expensive / large sum replacement

Make sure to emphasize at the same time with making motions with your hands like you're squeezing a bag of juice.

> is what's wrong with Silicon Valley


Nothing about IP is basic right from wrong. He might have zero morals, you're the one that's worked in close contact with him not me, but it's entirely possible to have a strong moral compass and ethical framework and not care for IP at all.

In the same way it's possible to have strong ethics and yet be comfortable with "honor killings."

In the sense that moral relativism is a thing yes. A big difference being acceptance within modern western culture. I'd assume (hope) there is a minuscule amount of people for honor killings while it appears to me quite common to not give two hoots about IP outside of fear of legal consequences.

We must hang out with different folks. Everyone I know thinks that an author deserves payment for their work if they wish.

litigation is a civil complaint not a criminal one. nobody goes to jail for that.

you may have some justified reasons for disliking him but you sound unhinged in this comment. get a grip.

The current litigation is civil, however, he or uber could be potentially criminally liable as well...

If just a portion of what is claimed comes out as true there will be a criminal case as well. This sounds orders of magnitude more serious than what Sergey Aleynikov was claimed to have done to Goldman Sachs and he is about ready to be put in jail.

Sergey didn't have an equally large gorilla of a company backing him up...

Well said!

There is also a supposed conversation between him and Larry Page before he left. From what I've read, Larry supposedly knew a lot about the circumstances of his leaving, and what transpired in that meeting supposedly will undermine Waymo's position. He's being deposed, but apparently Uber is only allowed to ask him one question, which is odd.

Edit: downvoted as expected. I bet that 9 out of 10 people upvoting these stories and downvoting every comment that is in the least supportive of Uber or critical of Google are bitter Google employees.

The HN guidelines ask you not to go on about downvotes. Bilious fantasies about downvoters are definitely precluded.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14216420 and marked it off-topic.

I must be number 10 then. No connection to Google, just don't think hearsay is helpful/interesting.

Uber has requested that Larry Page be deposed and they have questions they want to ask him under oath. That's fact, not hearsay. They clearly have questions the truth of which will weaken Waymo's position. Lawyers don't ask questions they don't already know the answer to. The only unknown is if Larry will lie under oath or be able to skillfully answer in a way that doesn't hurt Waymo's position.


> The bias is dripping off your lips.

Please don't comment uncivilly here.



Again, lawyers don't ask questions that they don't already know the answer to. They wouldn't ask to depose him if they didn't think the answers would help their position. This is lawyering 101 level obviousness.

This is a deposition, not the trial. Lawyers ask as many questions as possible in the deposition and drill in on all problem areas looking for contradictions and undisclosed information. That's how the Waymo lawyers found out about Spider. "Waymo learned of Spider’s existence during the deposition of Asheem Linaval, an engineer Levandowski recruited from Google to join him at Uber..."[1]

In a trial, they only ask questions that whose answers are beneficial to their case. They know the answers are beneficial because they already asked the questions in deposition. If the answer is different at the trial, it is perjury. If the answer is the same, it helps their case.

[1] https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/26/a-waymo-filing-leaks-lidar...

So if Uber were simply in the wrong, their lawyers would not ask any questions at all?

I read they can only ask one question because there was no proof the conversation occurred except for him saying it happened. the judge was being lenient allowing one question.

If the conversation happened, are they allowed to ask more questions? If so, the first question just needs to be "Did you have a conversation with Anthony Levandowsky?"

Another day, another scandal.

Funny how actvities creating most unemployment attract most money.

Isn't that completely logical. If you build something that makes it so that you don't need 20 people making 50k/yr doing it anymore, you're saving 1m/yr which is very lucrative for anyone.

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