Travis Kalanick has had a rough couple of weeks. After an independent review and list of recommendations regarding Uber’s business and inner workings was adopted by the company’s board, the embattled CEO agreed to take a leave of absence. Then, after a stern request from shareholders, Kalanick decided to resign entirely. Now, the heated legal battle between Google-owned Waymo and Uber over proprietary data and information related to the former’s self-driving vehicle tech has a new wrinkle, and it involves the ex-CEO himself.
As Bloomberg reports, a court filing in the case reveals that Kalanick knew of ex-Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski’s possession of discs filled with Google data related to its self-driving car program. And in a move that might win Kalanick a couple of fans (far too late to matter, of course), the filing states that the then-CEO told the engineer not to bring the information to Uber. The discs were then allegedly destroyed.
Waymo and Google believe that the plan was for Levandowski, whose startup Otto was acquired by Uber, to steal the information and deliver it to Uber in order to give the company an edge in the race to autonomous vehicle tech. Levandowski and Uber have denied this, and the now CEO-less ride hailing startup claims that its self-driving vehicle program has not used a single piece of proprietary data from its rival.
If the claim that Levandowski did indeed have discs filled with trade secrets from Google holds water, and if Kalanick knew about it, that’s a huge mark against Uber in the case, regardless of whether the information was used.