Uber's self-driving unit's head Anthony Levandowski will reportedly step aside even as the company battles a legal dispute with Waymo, Google's self-driving unit, in which Levandowski has been accused of stealing trade secrets. Waymo, which formerly employed Levandowski, sued Uber in February, alleging theft of its proprietary property autonomous vehicle Lidar, which is at the heart of the lawsuit.
According to a leaked memo, Levandowski said he will not be working on anything Lidar-related until the Waymo lawsuit has been resolved, Business Insider reported. The internal email also revealed that Uber's self-driving car division will now be lead by Eric Meyhofer.
Uber confirmed the contents of the memo to Reuters, but the company is yet to comment further on the matter.
Waymo's lawsuit accuses Levandowski of stealing over 14,000 confidential files, which included information pertaining to Lidar designs, before his departure from the firm. However, Reuters reports that Levandowski has not been named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
Although the leaked email revealed no specific reason for Levandowski's stepping aside, the move comes after a US district judge earlier in the month warned Uber that the evidence provided in the Waymo lawsuit could lead to the company receiving an injunction prohibiting Levandowski from working on Uber's self-driving car project.
On 3 May, the judge presiding over the case is set to hear an injunction hearing, at Waymo's request, which could potentially queer the pitch for Uber's self-driving project.
Uber has recently witnessed many departures. Earlier in the month, Sherif Marakby, the company's vice-president of global vehicle programme, left after just one year. The company has faced strong criticism over some of its actions, and recently lost out scores of customers as part of the #DeleteUber campaign, which recently resurfaced with a vengeance amid widespread backlash over the alleged sexual harassment prevalent at the compamy. The campaign first emerged in January after Uber was accused of strike-breaking a protest by New York City cab drivers over US President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban.
Uber is also facing a backlash over the use of controversial software such as its alleged tracking tool "Hell" and its secret Greyball program that allegedly helped the company evade government regulations and law enforcement in markets where the company's services are banned or restricted.