If nothing else comes of Google suing their former autonomous driving engineer Anthony Levandowski (refresher: he’s the guy that split with 14,000 proprietary Google documents, used them to start a new self-driving tech company called Otto and then promptly sold it to Uber for $700 million), the following text messages exchanged between Levandowski and former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, disclosed as part of the discovery process, will have been well worth the millions in legal fees.
In one text from September 2016, Levandowski texted Kalanick to suggest that they should setup a fake twitter handle called “@faketesla” specifically to “give physics lessons about stupid shit Elon says…” Per Recode:
“Yo! I’m back at 80%, super pumped… we’ve got to start calling Elon on his shit. I’m not on social media but let’s start “faketesla” and start give physics lessons about stupid shit Elon says like this: “we do not anticipate using lidar. Just to make it clear, lidar essentially is active photon generator in the visible spectrum – radar is active photon generation in essentially the radio spectrum. But lidar doesn’t penetrate intrusions so it does not penetrate rain, fog, dust and snow, whereas a radar does. Radar also bounces and lidar doesn’t bounce very well. You can’t do the “look in front of the car in front of you” thing. So I think the obvious thing is to use radar and not use lidar.”
“The photons stop acting like photons at 77Ghz we at least need the geeks on our side and start calling the BS out. Any objections?”
Clearly Levandowski doesn’t subscribe to society’s widely observed texting guidelines which clearly mandate extreme brevity be utilized at all times…
But it didn’t end there. In a series of text messages that clearly demonstrate an extreme obsession with Musk, Levandowski and Kalanick contemplate calling out Tesla on its safety record…
Watch first 45seconds… Tesla crash in January which implies Elon is lying about millions of miles without incident. We should have LDP on tesla just to catch all the crashes that are going on. Got this from ford who’s debating call him out on his shit
…and also seemingly sought out spies from within Musk’s management team…
“I’m still with the tesla guys and will try to get more info,” Levandowski texted Kalanick.
(Levandowski was at a dinner with 80 or so industry representatives and regulators, including Tesla’s former head of Autopilot, Sterling Anderson. Other attendees included Paul Hemmersbaugh from General Motors; Stefan Heck, CEO of auto tech startup Nauto; and James Kuffner of the Toyota Research Institute.)
Of course, Levandowski and Kalanick also kept close tabs on Google’s progress in the self-driving car space and at one point even discussed a meeting between Kalanick and the head of Google’s self-driving arm, Waymo.
Separately, Kalanick and Levandowski talked about someone they refer to as “JK.” Kalanick said JK agreed to meet him and Levandowski said to ask him about Waze and self-driving cars. Uber could not provide clarity on who JK is, but based on context, it appears they are referring to John Krafcik, the CEO of Alphabet’s self-driving arm Waymo.
The conversation occurred a few months before Uber announced it was acquiring Otto in August 2016, but three months after Levandowski left Alphabet and founded Otto.
With that, tune in next week for an all new episode of Silicon Valley…
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