On August 4, 2020, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California William Alsup sentenced former Uber executive Anthony Levandowski to 18 months in prison after Levandowksi pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets relating to Google’s self-driving vehicle project. The judge also ordered Levandowski to pay over $700,000 in restitution.
Levandowski was a Google engineer and a founding member of Google’s light detection and ranging engineering team. His team worked on Google’s self-driving car project from 2009 until he abruptly resigned from the company in January 2016. Levandowski then formed his own company, Ottomotto LLC, which he sold to Uber. Uber fired Levandowski in May 2017 after Google’s self-driving car unit sued Uber for trade secret theft relating to self-driving car technology. The civil lawsuit was settled in 2018, but this did not stop the federal authorities from continuing an investigation into Levandowski’s departure from Google.
In August 2019, federal prosecutors charged Levandowski with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets from Google. The U.S. Department of Justice alleged that Levandowski downloaded thousands of files relating to Google’s development of self-driving cars from Google’s secure database before resigning from his job. The indictment alleged that the files included circuit board schematics, instructions for light detection and ranging calibration and testing, and an internal tracking document. In March 2020, Levandowski pleaded guilty to one count of trade secret theft.