Autonomous vehicle whiz kid Levandowski pleads guilty to federal charges

Anthony Levandowski, considered a pioneer in the development of autonomous transportation technology, has pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges in California, according to multiple press reports.

Lewandowski pleaded guilty to stealing documents and other technology information from Google, which he had joined after his own startup had been acquired. He then took that information and created Otto, which he then sold to Uber for $700 million. He was fired from Uber when the concerns grew that he had stolen the documents from Google.

According to a report in The Washington Post about the plea, Lewandowski will plead guilty to one of the 33 charges he was facing, with prosecutors dropping the other charges. The one guilty plea could carry with it a prison term of 24 to 30 months, according to media reports. Those reports also said he had agreed to pay Waymo, the autonomous driving project of Google, more than $750,000 in restitution.

Just two weeks ago, he was ordered by a court to pay Google $179 million in restitution. He then declared for bankruptcy protection. 

The Post quoted an email that Miles Ehrlich, Lewandowski’s attorney, mailed to the publication. “Mr. Levandowski accepts responsibility and is looking forward to resolving this matter. “Mr. Levandowski is a young man with enormous talents and much to contribute to the fast-moving world of [artificial intelligence] and [automated vehicles] and we hope that this plea will allow him to move on with his life and focus his energies where they matter most.”

Lewandowski’s latest venture is a company called Pronto. Last year, it rolled out a driver-assist technology called Copilot, which FreightWaves used on a test drive. 

Google sued Uber over the theft, resulting in a payment of $244 million from Uber to Google in a February 2018 settlement. 

“But the settlement didn’t end Levandowski’s problems,” according to the Post’s account. “During the civil dispute, Levandowski exercised his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when he refused to turn over documents in the case. That prompted the judge in that case to recommend federal prosecutors for the Northern District of California to open an investigation into the matter.”