Seven years ago, a rumor of the imminent corporate demise of one of Google’s most talented engineers began percolating at the self-serve espresso bars in the company’s 3,000,000-square-feet California headquarters. A robotics expert, he was one of the employees spearheading Google’s self-driving car research.
He and his team created software that could combine landscape photos with GPS coordinates that could plot routes for autonomous vehicles. They then began tackling tech that could connect on-board lasers, cameras and computers to enable the vehicles to move around and obey traffic laws without hitting vehicles and pedestrians. When he left Google for Uber, he was suspected of stealing intellectual property and a lawsuit was filed.
Anthony Levandowski was one of the driving forces behind Project Chauffeur, Google’s team devoted to developing self-driving technology. But the New Yorker reports that Levandowski had ethical challenges (he was selling Google technology he had developed) and what seemed to some to be a lack of commitment (he negotiated the sale of his driving tech to Microsoft and other Google competitors).
In an effort to keep the brilliant Levandowski around, Google lavished money on him: more than $100 million for his Project Chauffeur leadership and his self-developed driving technologies. By 2015, he was yearning to break free from the company and make a mark on his own. According to the article, he began recruiting Google employees to leave and join him in a venture focused on self-driving trucking.
We’ll have more on the IP roads travelled by a California tech giant as it tried to develop autonomous vehicles.
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