Uber fired the top engineer late on Tuesday night for failing to comply with a request to co-operate with its own investigation after Waymo filed a lawsuit in which it accuses the ride-hailing company of stealing key technology.
Levandowski was formerly with Google's driverless car team before founding self-driving car company, Otto, which was acquired by Uber last year. Google's Waymo filed a civil suit accusing Uber of stealing trade secrets related to Lidar, a technology key to driverless car navigation, allegedly helped by Lewandoski.
He has asserted his fifth amendment right not to answer questions in the dispute.
Uber's associate general counsel for employment and litigation Angela Padilla said in an email to staff, reported in the New York Times: “Over the last few months Uber has provided significant evidence to the court to demonstrate that our self-driving technology has been built independently.
“Over that same period, Uber has urged Anthony to fully cooperate in helping the court get to the facts and ultimately helping to prove our case. We take our obligations under the court order very seriously, and so we have chosen to terminate his employment at Uber.”
He had previously been removed from working on Lidar at Uber after Waymo had sought an injunction to halt all its driverless car development.
In a preliminary injunction a judge ruled he should not work on Lidar but did not halt the work Uber is doing. The judge said there was "compelling evidence" that Levandowski had downloaded confidential files before leaving Google and that Uber "likely knew" or should have known when it was considering buying Otto. Judge Alsup said the trade secrets had not been identified in Uber's technology and ordered any stolen documents to be returned.
According to the latest court documents, Levandowski failed to comply with the order and Uber considers this a breach of his employment.