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Uber's head of self-driving cars is stepping aside amid Waymo lawsuit

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Business Insider reports that Anthony Levandowski, an Uber executive in charge of the company’s self-driving group, is stepping away from his role amid allegations that he stole 14,000 documents from Waymo before taking his current job. Business Insider obtained an email in which says he will continue to work at Uber, but will no longer be involved in LIDAR-related work.

Instead, he’ll focus on operations and security. Eric Meyhofer is being named the new head of Uber's Advanced Technologies group. Uber confirmed the news in a statement to The Verge. In his note, Levandowski writes that he currently provides no input on LIDAR design choices, but with this organizational change, he’ll have “absolutely no oversight over or input into” LIDAR work.

Waymo sued Uber in February over allegations that Levandowski stole proprietary information from the company, his former employer, including designs of Waymo’s LIDAR and circuit board. The company reportedly only found out about the theft after a mistakenly CC’d email from a LIDAR components vendor.

“The email attached machine drawings of what purports to be an Uber LIDAR circuit board,” the complaint says. “This circuit board bears a striking resemblance to Waymo’s own highly confidential and proprietary design and reflects Waymo trade secrets.” Levandowski is exercising his Fifth Amendment rights to avoid self-incrimination, against the advice of Uber's lawyers.

Given that the lawsuit specifically centers on Levandowski, it isn’t necessarily surprising to see Uber pulling back some of his responsibilities, at least until the case is settled.