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Ex-Google engineer to plead guilty for stealing driverless car technology

Anthony Levandowski is accused of stealing documents while working at Waymo before leaving for Uber in 2016

A former Google engineer has agreed to a guilty plea for stealing sensitive documents relating to the tech giant's self-driving car technology. 

Federal prosecutors agreed to recommend a prison sentence of no more than 30 days if Anthony Levandowski pleads guilty to one of the 33 counts he is accused of, according to Reuters.

The count in question accused him of downloading a file that tracked technical goals for Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving car company.

Levandowski Waymo in 2016 to form his own driverless cars startup, which was later brought by Uber. Google began legal proceedings against the ride-hailing firm in 2017, suggesting that it jump-started its own self-driving car business with the trade secrets stolen by Levandowski. 

Uber initially settled by revising its software and also issuing company stocks to Google's parent Alphabet, but the Department of Justice would later announce a 33-count criminal indictment against Levandowski. He is accused of stealing sensitive materials in 2015 and in 2016 and then using these materials to create his startup Ottomotto. If convicted on each count, he could face a possible 10-year prison sentence.

Following the announcement of his plea bargain, Lewandowski's attorney, Miles Ehrlich, said that it will allow him to move on and refocus his energies on developing new technologies.

"I downloaded these files with the intent to use them for my own personal benefit, and I understand that I was not authorised to take the files for that purpose," Levandowski said in court papers.

Since the case started in 2017, Levandowski has been fired from Uber for refusing to hand over the documents, has filed for bankruptcy to negotiate his debts, and has also agreed to pay nearly $756,500 to Alphabet.

Despite this, Lewandowski has still managed to make notable advances in driverless car technology. Following his departure from Uber, he set up another driverless car firm called ProntoAI, technology from which was used in his famous autonomous car journey from San Francisco to New York, some 3,000 miles.

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