Lior Ron, a co-founder of self-driving truck startup Otto, has left Uber, according to The Verge. Otto was at the center of the recently-concluded self-driving car trade secrets court case between Uber and Waymo. Ron was head of the Uber Freight trucking division before his departure.
"We remain fully invested in and excited about the future of Uber Freight," a spokesperson told The Verge, without discussing specifics of Ron's departure. "We believe it will continue to grow as we use our network and technology to transform the trucking industry."
Ron and partner Anthony Levandowski left jobs at Google's self-driving car project (prior to its rebranding as Waymo) to start Otto, which was quickly bought by Uber. Levandowski took a prominent position in Uber's self-driving car program, and was more central to the trade-secrets case than Ron. Uber fired Levandowski for not cooperating with efforts to fight Waymo's lawsuit.
The court case centered on Waymo's allegation that Levandowski and Ron funneled trade secrets to Uber through Otto. Waymo argued that this was Uber's plan from the start, but in court testimony Ron said he and Levandowski split with Google/Waymo because the company wasn't interested in self-driving trucks, and that they would have sold Otto to any interested party. The case was settled last month, with Uber agreeing to pay Waymo $245 million in equity.
Ron's departure comes as Uber deals with the fallout from a fatal crash involving one its self-driving cars. The autonomous Volvo XC90 struck pedestrian Elaine Herzberg while she was pushing a bicycle across a street in Tempe, Arizona. The state's governor has suspended Uber's self-driving car testing permit, and the company is expected to let its California testing permit lapse. Renewing that permit would require discussing the Arizona crash in detail, which Uber reportedly is not willing to do at this time.