On August 26th, 2019, a federal indictment was unsealed, revealing that federal prosecutors have brought 33 criminal charges against a former Google engineer who worked on the company’s self-driving car project from its founding in 2009 through his resignation in January 2016. The indictment alleges that in the months before his departure, the former Google employee downloaded from a secure database multiple engineering, manufacturing and business files related to Google’s custom LiDAR and self-driving car technology. The indictment further alleges that when the employee stole the files he was also working for two of Google’s main competitors in the self-driving space, Tyto LiDAR LLC, and 280 Systems, Inc.
Tyto LiDAR LLC, and 280 Systems, Inc. combined forces in January 2016 under the name ‘Otto,’ which was acquired by Uber Technologies Inc. for $680 million in August 2016. That same month, Uber also hired the recently-indicted former Google employee as a Vice President for Engineering. U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, David L. Anderson, said in a statement Tuesday that everyone has the right to change jobs, but no one has the right to “fill his pockets on the way out the door.” He also noted that “theft is not innovation.” These criminal charges come after Uber and Waymo (a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., which also owns Google) settled a highly-contentious civil suit involving allegations of trade secret theft. While we await more information about these new criminal charges, please check out our coverage of that civil suit, located here, here, and here.