The ride-sharing and self-driving car industry is a volatile one with persons of expertise valued around $10 million per person. General Motors and many other automakers are all looking to carve their place in the blooming industry. However, one major figure of the industry is now a free agent.
The New York Times reports Anthony Levandowski has been fired from Uber, previously of Google. Levandowski left Google to start Otto, which was acquired by Uber last year. Amid the acquisition, Google’s self-driving car unit, Waymo, sued Uber for allegedly stealing trade secrets. Levandowski is said to be the cornerstone of the insider information, and is accused of using the Google/Waymo trade secrets to develop driverless car technology for Uber.
Uber has urged Levandowski to cooperate with the lawsuit for months, but recently invoked his fifth amendment rights to avoid self-incrimination. When he missed an internal deadline to hand over information, Uber terminated him.
The bigger picture is how incredibly valuable Levandowski is to the industry. He has spent years to become an expert in the budding field and was reportedly integral in every facet of Uber’s self-driving car program. To underscore the importance, General Motors itself has bet big on ride sharing and autonomous technology. The automaker acquired Cruise Automation for over $1 billion—it has spent quite a bit of cash to keep its talent from leaving the subsidiary now owned wholly by GM, too.
The industry is fluid and ever changing and it’s poised to stay that way for some time.