Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Waymo vs. Uber: 8 Things I Learned From Anthony Levandowski Taking the 5th

As noted in April 1's "Uber: Judge Says He May Grant Waymo's Request For An Injunction Against Uber's Self Driving Efforts":
From the introduction to yesterday's "In Waymo v. Uber, honing the craft of litigation gamesmanship" (GOOG):
I was going to put something together on Anthony Levandowski's use of the 5th amendment in a civil matter and some of the implications of doing so but didn't get to it. In the meantime here is a look at some high-buck lawyering and tactics of litigators...
I was thinking more along the lines of inferring guilt--in a criminal proceeding an inference from the assertion of the 5th amendment right is strictly verboten and judges so instruct the jury, whereas in most state courts (California being a notable exception) and U.S. federal court,  a civil pleading of the 5th may be assumed to be an admission of guilt.

But yeah, another implication is: if you piss off a tech savvy* federal judge you've got a problem....
Here's today's headline story from the brainiacs at IEEE Spectrum:
In February, Google’s self-driving car spin-out Waymo accused Anthony Levandowski of stealing 14,000 confidential files about the laser-ranging lidars developed while he was working there and taking them to Uber. On Friday 14 April, the engineer sat down in the San Francisco office of Waymo’s lawyers to face six hours of hard questioning.

When asked what his current responsibilities were at Uber, Levandowski took the 5th, citing his right under the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment not to answer questions that might incriminate him. He plead it again to questions about whether he stole the files, and again when asked if he subsequently used the files to build lidars for Uber. In fact, he took the 5th over 400 times in the course of the day.

The transcript of the deposition, released on Friday, is predictably repetitious. Despite that, it is one of the most illuminating documents to emerge from the lawsuit so far, revealing Google’s early suspicions of Levandowski, details about key suppliers, previously secret code-names, and technical details of the lidars in question. Here’s what I learned, and how:

1. Questions can be just as informative as answers
Although Levandowski’s answers were identical, I learned a lot from Waymo’s questions. It seems Waymo now thinks that Levandowski was deceiving Google almost from the moment it hired him to work on Street View maps project back in 2007. Google first had concerns when it found out that Levandowski was working with his own start-ups, 510 Systems and Anthony’s Robots, to build a self-driving car, as first revealed in IEEE Spectrum.

“When Google discovered that you were involved in 510 Systems and Anthony’s Robots, it was concerned about potential conflicts,” said Waymo’s lawyer, David Perlson. “You used confidential information from Google to help develop technology at 510 Systems; correct?” He went on to accuse Levandowski of using Street View code to calibrate 510’s Velodyne lidar, and in the start-up’s self-driving car technology.

2. Levandowski names his lidars after mountains
Perlson said that the lidar Levandowski built at 510 Systems was called Little Bear, after a mountain in Colorado. “The Fuji system at Uber is named after Mount Fuji,” he went on. “And the reason that the Fuji system at Uber is named after Mount Fuji is that it is derived from Google technology that was also code named with names of mountains.” Perlson revealed Google’s lidars are all named Grizzly Bear, probably after Grizzly Peak in Berkeley, where 510 Systems was based. The latest Waymo lidar is called Grizzly Bear 3 or GBR3.

3. The side hustles kept coming
Perlson accused Levandowski of controlling a company called Dogwood Leasing that hired ex-Google contractor and 510 Systems engineer Asheem Linaval to use Google’s secrets to develop self-driving car technology. Linaval was eventually hired to Levandowski’s autonomous truck start-up Otto, which Uber bought in 2016.

Waymo also accused Levandowski of founding yet another start-up, Odin Wave and feeding it confidential lidar technology. In 2013, one of Google’s suppliers called Google because it had received an order from Odin Wave that was similar to parts used by the technology giant. Perlson accused Levandowski of then moving Odin Wave and renaming the company Tyto, to hide his involvement....