A former Google engineer sentenced to prison for stealing manufacturing secrets from self-driving cars, Anthony Levandowski, is one of 73 people pardoned by Donald Trump on Wednesday before leaving the White House.
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“Mr. Levandowski paid a significant price for his actions and plans to put his talents at the service of the common good, ”justifies the press release of the Republican billionaire, who also pardoned his former adviser Steve Bannon.
Last March, Anthony Levandowski pleaded guilty to one count, in exchange for dropping the 32 others. He admitted to having downloaded documents before his resignation from Google in January 2016, and having shared them with competitors acquired by Uber.
His request for pardon was notably supported by Palantir co-founder Peter Thiel, a controversial figure in the tech industry, who was an early investor in Facebook and supported Donald Trump in 2016.
“My family and I are grateful for this opportunity to move forward, and grateful to the president and those who have supported me and advocated for me,” Levandowski tweeted Wednesday.
The 40-year-old was sentenced to 18 months in prison in August. “The judge who pronounced this sentence described him as ” brilliant and avant-garde engineer that our country needs ””, specifies the press release.
The same judge also declared that it was the “biggest theft of trade secrets” that he “ever saw”.
At Google, Anthony Levandowski was one of the founding members in 2009 of the project called “Chauffeur”, to develop autonomous cars, one of the most ambitious companies of the internet giant.
He had notably stolen the plans for the LiDAR system (for Light Detection And Ranging), a kind of radar where a laser replaces electromagnetic waves.
This essential technology in future self-driving cars must be used to measure distances and detect obstacles.
The stolen documents were valued between $ 550,000 and $ 1.5 million.
According to the indictment, Mr. Levandowski was in contact with two companies competing with Google in the niche of the autonomous car, at the same time as he seized the sensitive files.
These two companies, Tyto Lidar and 280 Systems, became Ottomotto, and the latter was acquired by Uber in 2016. Mr. Lewandowski was hired at that time by the world leader in car rental with driver.
At the end of 2016, Google’s self-driving car division was renamed Waymo. It depends on its parent company Alphabet.