Former Uber engineer slams Tesla in texts to Travis Kalanick: ‘We’ve got to start calling Elon on his s—‘


Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon
Musk.

REUTERS/Mario
Anzuoni



  • Waymo, Google’s sister company focused on
    self-driving-car technology, has claimed in a lawsuit that Uber
    stole intellectual property and trade secrets when it acquired
    a startup founded by Anthony Levandowski.
  • Levandowski was the head of Waymo’s self-driving-tech
    team before joining Uber.
  • Levandowski slammed Tesla’s approach to self-driving
    tech in text messages to Travis Kalanick, Uber’s cofounder and
    ousted CEO. The texts were made public via a court
    filing.

A former Uber engineer slammed Tesla CEO Elon Musk in texts to
Travis Kalanick, Uber’s cofounder and ousted CEO, a court filing
shows.

The engineer in question, Anthony Levandowski, is at the heart of
a lawsuit filed by Waymo, Google’s sister company focusing on
self-driving-car technology. The suit claims that Levandowski,
the former head of Waymo, stole intellectual property and trade
secrets and used them for Uber’s autonomous-vehicle efforts.

Levandowski joined Uber in August 2016 when the company acquired
his self-driving-truck startup, Otto. Uber fired
Levandowski
in May over his refusal to cooperate in the legal
case.

A court filing, first
reported by IEEE Spectrum’s Mark
Harris
, shows text exchanges Levandowski had with Kalanick
while the two were planning the Otto acquisition.

An interesting nugget buried in the texts is a shot Levandowski
took at Musk’s approach to self-driving-car technology.

“We’ve got to start calling Elon on his s—,” Levandowski wrote
in a text in September. “I’m not on social media but let’s start
‘faketesla’ and start give physics lessons about stupid s— Elon
says.”

Tesla did not immediately return Business Insider’s request for
comment.


Travis Kalanick Anthony Levandowski
Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, left, and engineer
Anthony Levandowski.

Associated
Press


Levandowski’s example was the Tesla CEO’s reasoning behind his
decision not to use lidar, a notoriously expensive sensor that
uses lasers to help self-driving cars detect obstacles.

Musk has said Tesla does
not use lidar for its Autopilot technology because lidar cannot
penetrate rain, fog, dust, or snow. Instead, Tesla cars are
equipped with a radar sensor, which use radio waves to detect
obstacles.

Waymo, Ford, and General Motors are a few companies that are
equipping their self-driving cars with radar and lidar.

Levandowski also accused Musk of lying about the number of
crashes that have occurred while a Tesla car is operating with
Autopilot activated.

“Tesla crash in January … implies Elon is lying about millions
of miles without incident,” Levandowski wrote. “We should have
LDP on Tesla just to catch all the crashes that are going on,”
Levandowski said in another text in September.

Levandowski appears to be referring to a fatal crash on January
20, 2016, in China that may have occurred while Autopilot was
activated, The New York Times
reported
. Tesla removed the Chinese term for “self-driving”
from its webpage about Autopilot after a separate crash in August
2016, Reuters reported.

The court filing does not show any response from Kalanick.

Levandowski may have been skeptical of Musk’s approach to
self-driving cars, but Kalanick reportedly
asked
Musk in 2016 to partner on an autonomous ride-hailing
platform. Musk turned down the offer.


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