Uber’s Travis Kalanick Knew About Stolen Self-Driving Car Data, Waymo Lawyers Say

As its CEO steps down, Uber's legal battle with Waymo continues.

Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick may have resigned from the top spot at the company, but Google’s Waymo is still attacking him for his alleged role in the theft of self-driving car data that remains the subject of an ongoing legal battle between the two companies.

Waymo filed a lawsuit against Uber in February, claiming the company used information stolen by former Waymo employee Anthony Levandowski for its own self-driving car program. Waymo now says Kalanick knew about the stolen files, and urged Levandowski not to bring them to Uber when he joined the company, according to The Wall Street Journal.

That claim reportedly comes from court documents filed by Waymo, but citing Uber lawyers’ own responses to Waymo’s questions. The documents reportedly show that Kalanick knew Levandowski had the stolen 14,000 confidential files as early as March 2016. Levandowski left Waymo in December 2015 to form autonomous-driving startup Otto, which was bought by Uber in August 2016.

Uber’s lawyers revealed this information to discredit Waymo’s assertion that Uber asked Levandowski to bring the stolen files with him. Levandowski was given a prominent position in Uber’s self-driving car program, but was then barred from further involvement by the judge overseeing the Waymo lawsuit. Levandowski was recently fired for not cooperating with Uber’s efforts to fight the lawsuit.

The case rests on two main points: whether Levandowski stole the files and brought them to Uber, and whether Uber actually used them for its own self-driving car program. Last month, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup said it appeared clear Levandowski had stolen the files, but that Waymo hadn’t produced a “smoking gun” showing that Uber had done anything with them.

While Kalanick’s alleged knowledge of the stolen files is a major revelation, it doesn’t help Waymo in proving that Uber used the files to help its self-driving car program. Its most immediate impact may be triggering more requests for documents from Uber. The company’s slow release of relevant documents so far has frustrated Judge Alsup—although he still hasn’t granted Waymo’s request for an injunction that would shut down Uber’s self-driving car program.