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In the bounce of 2011, a baby accumulation of engineers alive on a backstairs activity at Google accustomed an e-mail from a colleague. It’s assuredly happening, the calendar read. Anthony is activity to get fired. Several of the recipients aggregate in one of the self-serve espresso confined that dot the company’s headquarters, and traded rumors suggesting that Anthony Levandowski—one of the company’s best accomplished and best-known employees—had assuredly gone too far.

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Levandowski was a able architect who frequently batten to newspapers and magazines, including this one, about the aing of robotics. On the Google campus, he was accessible to aces out: he was six anxiety seven and wore the aforementioned arid clothes every day—jeans and a gray T-shirt—which, in Silicon Valley, signalled that he adopted to conserve his cerebral energies for high pursuits. Generally arrive to aggregation brainstorming sessions, he was accepted for accepting a absorbing (and, to some, annoying) addiction to barrage into awkward sermons about the ability of technology to change the world.

It was Levandowski who, with his colleagues, had abiding Google’s administration to absorb millions of dollars inventing self-driving cars. Google had recruited Levandowski and a scattering of added roboticists four years earlier, afterwards the accumulation competed in the DARPA Grand Challenge, a government-sponsored self-driving chase beyond chastening in California and Nevada. Best of the race’s competitors had congenital automatic cars, but Levandowski had complete a self-driving motorcycle declared Ghostrider—in part, he afterwards admitted, because he hoped that its change would draw attention. Although Ghostrider performed rather pitifully in its début, breaking bottomward a few anxiety from the starting line, in about every added account it was a success: the adventurousness of Levandowski’s creation, accompanying with his aptitude for absorbing journalists, fabricated him the competition’s star. The National Museum of American History acquired Ghostrider for its abiding collection, and in 2007 Levandowski—then twenty-seven years old, with alone a master’s amount in engineering from U.C. Berkeley—was offered a job at Google account millions of dollars.

At the time, the aggregation was acquisitive to bang-up the bazaar for abyssal casework with software that offered turn-by-turn instructions to urbanites gluttonous the quickest admission to the grocery abundance or the gym. Google was action that, as smartphones matured, users would agreeably duke over calendar advice about breadth they were and breadth they capital to go—a admired accession for a aggregation adherent to affairs targeted ads. To absolute such software, Google bare on-the-ground details: the exact locations of speed-limit signs on roads; eye-level assessments of which off-ramps were accessible to accommodate and which appropriate abrupt lane changes. Levandowski and his Grand Challenge teammates had developed a adjustment for inexpensively bond calm bags of mural photographs, afresh accumulation them with G.P.S. coördinates, in adjustment to artifice accessible self-driving paths over arenaceous hills and brook beds. This technology could be acclimatized to map burghal streets, but millions of a photographs would accept to be taken first. Afterwards Levandowski accustomed at Google, his plan was to accelerate out hundreds of cars, able with cameras, to photograph America’s roads. Afresh he encountered Google’s bureaucracy.

The aggregation was beneath than a decade old, but it had about seventeen thousand employees, including a blubbery band of average managers. Levandowski afresh told me, “One of the affidavit they capital us was because Larry Page knew we were scrappy—we would cut through red tape.” Page, Google’s co-founder and arch executive, generally complained that the aggregation had become bloated, and had absent the hacker mentality that had fuelled its antecedent success. By the time Levandowski arrived, Google’s apparatchiks were in ascent.

“Hiring could booty months,” Levandowski told me. “There was a affairs declared WorkforceLogic, and aloof accepting bodies into the adjustment was super-complicated. And so, one day, I put ads on Craigslist attractive for drivers, and basically assassin anyone who seemed competent, and afresh paid them out of my own pocket. It became accepted as AnthonyforceLogic.” About this time, Levandowski went to an auto dealership and bought added than a hundred cars. One of his managers from that aeon told me, “When we got his amount report, it was according to commodity like all the biking costs of every added Google agent in his analysis combined. The accountants were, like, ‘What the hell?’ But Larry said, ‘Pay it,’ and so we did. Larry capital bodies who could abstain obstacles and could appearance anybody that you could do commodity that seemed absurd if you looked for work-arounds.”

Levandowski and his aggregation were asked to map a actor afar of U.S. anchorage aural a year. They accomplished in nine months, and afresh set up an astronomic appointment in Hyderabad, India, to activate mapping every artery on earth. (Today, Google Maps is the ascendant aeronautics app, acclimated circadian by added than thirty actor people.) Levandowski and his boss, Sebastian Thrun—another Grand Challenge alumnus—then proposed to Google’s administration that the aing footfall was developing self-driving cars. In 2009, a baby aggregation of engineers, led by Thrun, was assigned to a abstruse self-driving-car division, which was accustomed the cipher name Activity Chauffeur. Levandowski’s focus would be accouterments development.

One of the group’s aboriginal objectives was addition out how to accordance an free car “eyes”: technology aing lasers and cameras army on the roof to an onboard computer that visualized the alley ahead, from cartage signs to pedestrians and added automobiles. Such systems had been created before, at universities, and anniversary had taken years to build. Levandowski afresh devised a work-around. Afterwards aing Google, he had, on the side, created two absolute companies, 510 Systems and Anthony’s Robots, which captivated the rights to technologies that he had developed for his free motorcycle and added alfresco projects. As he saw it, Google could potentially skip years of bombastic analysis if Activity Chauffeur artlessly bought the all-important accouterments from his firms. In effect, Levandowski was proposing to admission acute technology from himself, and pay for it with Google’s money.

Google said yes. Although some admiral were acquainted of this abnormal arrangement, others were in the dark. “At first, no one absolutely accepted that Anthony was affairs us his own stuff, but bodies eventually ample it out,” one of Levandowski’s above colleagues told me. “It seemed shady, but at the aforementioned time anybody capital to move as fast as possible, and this was an accessible solution, so we didn’t ask a lot of questions. That assured up actuality a mistake.”

During the aing few years, Activity Chauffeur grew to hundreds of employees, and Google spent a baby affluence architecture a agile of self-driving cars. Transportation is one of the world’s bigger industries. If Google could become the aboriginal aggregation to accompany autonomous-vehicle technology to the marketplace, the beforehand would be account billions. Levandowski was axial to Google’s plans, but, as Activity Chauffeur expanded, his administration appearance became added divisive. He was accomplished at analytic problems and at ambulatory workers, but he was abrupt and obsessive, decumbent to belittle teammates who disagreed with him.

He additionally seemed absent by his claimed compensation. “We were already active to a affair together, and we were talking about how abundant we capital to acquire from Chauffeur,” one of Levandowski’s co-workers said. “I told him I capital to accomplish a hundred actor dollars, which seemed like a absolutely extraordinary amount to me. And—I bethink this actual clearly—Anthony looked over, with this pitying expression, and said I was cerebration way too small. He said he accepted to accomplish a billion dollars, at least. This technology was activity to change the world, and a billion was the minimum of what he deserved.” Levandowski sometimes wore a custom-designed gray T-shirt, a allowance from a colleague, that apprehend “I Drink Your Milkshake”—a band from “There Will Be Blood,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s blur about a berserk aggressive oilman. “He was that affectionate of guy,” the accessory said. “You know, an . But a absolutely able one. Our , I guess.”

In 2010, advisers began to apprehend rumors that Levandowski, on account of his alfresco companies, had met with some of Google’s competitors, including a aing that was alive with Microsoft, to advertise them the aforementioned abyssal technology that Google was advantageous to use. Levandowski afterwards insisted that he had never hidden the actuality that his companies had relationships with added firms, and argued that Google had never acquired an absolute license. To Levandowski’s teammates, however, it acquainted like a betrayal. His administration launched an centralized inquiry. Aback Levandowski was questioned, he said that it was not his ambition to advice added companies advance with Google, but acclaimed that he was advertent abrogation in adjustment to focus on 510 Systems and Anthony’s Robots, which ability become competitors of their own in the self-driving-car business. That’s aback the whispers about battlefront him began.

However, according to above Google executives, aback Page heard that Levandowski ability be fired, or that he ability leave the company, he ordered a reversal. Google bare bodies like him. Abounding of its above innovations, like Gmail and AdSense, were added than bisected a decade old, an aeon in the tech industry. Assorted “moonshots”—attempts to alter Google’s acquirement beck by architecture new businesses—had captivated billions of dollars but apparent few cogent results. The aggregation had spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing Google Glass—augmented-reality spectacles unveiled, to abundant fanfare, in 2012—but had agilely confused them a aback their achievement accepted underwhelming and glitchy. Alike aback Google acquired avant-garde startups—such as the smart-thermostat architect Nest, in 2014—the clip of apparatus generally adjourned about as anon as the acquirement closed.

Page ordered his lieutenants to accommodate the acquirement of 510 Systems and Anthony’s Robots, and to accede giving Levandowski an broadcast administration role. “Anthony became who he is because Larry accomplished and adequate him,” a above baronial Google controlling told me. “They were friends—they admired accepting banquet and geeking out.”

Within Activity Chauffeur, though, there was ample attrition to adorning Levandowski. Thrun, in an e-mail to his colleagues, said that several aggregation associates had “concerns about Anthony’s allegation and integrity.” Addition executive, David Lawee, wrote that, alike if Google was accessible to “take the blow with Anthony” and accomplish the acquisition, “I can say, definitively, that if I was allotment a business accomplice to alpha a aggregation with, there is no way in hell that I would proceed.”

Page was adamant. According to centralized Google e-mails, he ordered admiral to “make Anthony affluent if Chauffeur succeeds.” Two months later, Google bought 510 Systems for twenty-two actor dollars. It additionally purchased Anthony’s Robots; in return, Levandowski was affirmed a aing acquittal angry to the absolute amount of Activity Chauffeur. Google agreed to accordance him a affirmation on ten per cent of the division’s closing worth—a affectionate of adumbration disinterestedness that would belong in four years. The pale eventually paid him added than a hundred and twenty actor dollars, one of the bigger such payouts in Google’s history.

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“Sometimes the best way to get acknowledgment at Google is to abuse that you’ll quit,” Levandowski told me. “If you’re, like, ‘Hey, I’m activity to do my own startup,’ they’re, like, ‘O.K., we allegation to buy you.’ That’s how Silicon Valley works. You accept to agitate things up, actualize pressure. The bodies who win actuality are the ones who accept in the bigger aing and are accommodating to booty risks to accomplish it appear true.”

Silicon Valley has consistently been congenital as abundant on betrayal as on innovation. The coaction can be traced aback to 1957, aback the Valley was about created by a accumulation of adolescent engineers who aggregate to altercate betraying their boss. The engineers formed for William Shockley—a almsman of the Nobel Prize who’d helped ad-lib the transistor, and a adverse supervisor. He had founded a baby aggregation amidst the bake-apple farms of Abundance View, California, allotment the breadth in allotment for its adjacency to his mother. Its offices were beneath than three afar from breadth Google is based today.

Shockley had recruited a baby team—many of them contempo graduates from Stanford and M.I.T.—to accomplish some of the aboriginal semiconductors. Aural a year, best of his advisers were accessible to quit. Shockley was a batty micromanager, and a racist decumbent to atmosphere tantrums; he afterwards donated his agent to science, with the acceding that it be acclimated to beget alone women who able for Mensa. His suspicions of his advisers were so acute that he already proposed that they all booty lie-detector tests. Aback eight of Shockley’s top engineers apparent that they had agnate misgivings about their leader, they approached a association declared Fairchild, which offered to advice them actualize a new company. Afterwards the eight a Shockley that they were leaving, his abettor told them that it acquainted as if “a acceptable acquaintance has stabbed him in the back.”

The defectors came to be accepted as the Traitorous Eight, and admitting they hated the name, it became a ambulatory cry for a consecutive cord of ambitious betrayals that congenital Silicon Valley. Fairchild Semiconductor, as the Traitorous Eight’s new aggregation was called, fabricated its founders rich, alien the byword “silicon wafer” to the world, and accomplished a bearing of computer engineers in the accomplished art of disloyalty. Afore long, Fairchild advisers were abandonment to activate new firms; added than a hundred were created, including Teledyne and Intel.

At the time of the Shockley betrayals, added regions were abundant bigger positioned than Silicon Valley to become the tech industry’s breadbasket. Admission 128, a beltway about Boston, was home to so abounding universities and beat computer firms that it anon became accepted as America’s Technology Highway. But by the nineteen-seventies Admission 128 had been overshadowed by Northern California. Economists afterwards appropriate that the Valley’s ability of betrayal was a above acumen for its success. Massachusetts’ laws fabricated it difficult for advisers to accompany battling companies or actualize new businesses. Engineers in Boston were about affected to assurance non-compete agreements that appropriate them, if they quit, to delay at atomic a year afore aing a adversary or creating their own firms. But in California non-compete agreements were illegal. That prohibition had been amid into the state’s bartering cipher about by accident, in the eighteen-seventies, aback California lawmakers—seeking to save time—virtually affected a set of statutes that had been proposed (and afresh rejected) by New York’s legislature. Aback California’s aboriginal legislators banned “every arrangement by which anyone is aseptic from agreeable in a allowable profession,” none of them could accept advancing that, a aeon later, their accommodation would transform the all-around economy.

As companies in Silicon Valley multiplied, you could “quit your job on Friday and accept addition job on Monday,” a California architect told the economist AnnaLee Saxenian. “You didn’t necessarily alike accept to acquaint your wife. You aloof collection off in addition administration on Monday morning.” New businesses emerged beyond the accompaniment at a boundless rate. Every year in the nineteen-seventies, a third of California’s tech workers abdicate their jobs and aing competitors, or launched new companies.

“The career paths of Silicon Valley engineers and managers resembled Brownian motion,” Ronald J. Gilson wrote, in a 1999 law-review article. “They confused amid companies, founded startups, supplied above employers, purchased from above employees, and in the beforehand of their careers developed claimed and able relationships that cut beyond companies and competition.” As these motes danced beyond California’s business landscape, they beforehand secrets and aggregate cabal knowledge. Such dissemination, accepted amid economists as “knowledge spillover,” spurs innovation. “Why did Adidas body a branch in Portland?” Sharon Sandeen, an intellectual-property able at Mitchell Hamline Academy of Law, said to me recently. “They could go anywhere in the world.” But Nike is based in the Portland area, and Adidas, by establishing an appointment there, could added calmly appoint above Nike employees, thereby accepting ability of its rival’s methods. “Ideas are activity to leak,” Sandeen said.

Recent studies beforehand that, in some industries, accepting advisers to move advisedly amid companies can abominably admission the clip of innovation. Ability spillover helps companies abstain repeating the mistakes of their competitors. It educates a broadcast accomplice of advisers about new discoveries. Knowing that your battling will anon appoint your best employees, and apprentice all your secrets, encourages firms to abstain comatose on their laurels. As a above baronial Google controlling told me, “We appetite bodies to try crazy things and afresh anguish that addition away is activity to booty that abstraction unless they run as adamantine as they can to use it first.”

In contempo years, however, addition aural Silicon Valley appears to accept slowed. Scholars calendar that abounding of the bigger companies—including Google, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft—haven’t appear advocate articles in added than a decade. The iPhone débuted in 2007. Facebook’s News Feed was alien in 2006. Microsoft’s Xbox is sixteen years old. And, aback confusing competitors—such as Instagram, WhatsApp, and Waze—have emerged, beyond firms accept usually acquired them. Big Silicon Valley companies now accept that abounding advisers will stick about for decades.

In the added arthritic apple of Silicon Valley, Levandowski was an outlier. The above baronial Google controlling said, “Most bodies basically stop giving a fuck already they’re rich. And that’s why Anthony was so special. He never relaxed. He was one of those guys who would assignment and assignment and work, and afresh canyon out, get up, and assignment some more, aloof pushing, constantly, until he fabricated an absurd abstraction into a reality.”

Even afterwards Levandowski was promised added than a hundred actor dollars, he connected advancement himself to “think alfresco the box”—that Silicon Valley cliché for acute cliché. “And that was acceptable and bad,” the controlling said. “Because there are times aback not seeing the box helps you do the impossible, and times aback acknowledging that the box exists is what keeps us from accomplishing commodity dumb—or activity to jail.”

After Google acquired Levandowski’s companies, Activity Chauffeur connected to move forward, and Google’s beforehand in free technologies anon surpassed a billion dollars. Residents of Northern California began seeing self-driving cars canoeing through their neighborhoods—Priuses and Lexuses with spinning gizmos on their roofs and a addiction to stop cautiously at intersections, as if apprentice drivers were abaft the wheel. In 2015, Activity Chauffeur acclaimed added than a actor self-driven miles.

That year, Levandowski began agreeable baddest colleagues to allocution with him alfresco the office. Aloof as he had already started Anthony’s Robots on the side, he was cerebration of founding addition absolute firm. It had been about four years aback he awash his companies to Google, and his payouts were about to vest, giving him a affluence that would be all-inclusive alike by Silicon Valley standards. But Levandowski, who now had two children, told colleagues that he wasn’t about to become complacent. He was black at Google, and acquainted that the clip of beforehand at Activity Chauffeur had stalled, in allotment because of arguments amid executives.

Some of the bigger fights circuitous risks that Levandowski was demography in self-driving experiments. The software that guided Google’s free cartage bigger by ingesting immense amounts of test-drive data. One able way to advise free cartage how to, say, absorb assimilate a active freeway is to accept them do so repeatedly, accepting their algorithms to analyze assorted approaches and apprentice from mistakes. A animal “safety driver” consistently sat in the advanced bench of an free vehicle, accessible to booty over if an acceding went awry. But blame the technology’s boundaries appropriate advertisement the cars’ software to catchy situations. “If it is your job to beforehand technology, assurance cannot be your No. 1 concern,” Levandowski told me. “If it is, you’ll never do anything. It’s consistently safer to leave the car in the driveway. You’ll never apprentice from a absolute mistake.”

One day in 2011, a Google controlling declared Isaac Taylor abstruse that, while he was on ancestors leave, Levandowski had adapted the cars’ software so that he could booty them on contrarily banned routes. A Google controlling recalls witnessing Taylor and Levandowski shouting at anniversary other. Levandowski told Taylor that the alone way to appearance him why his admission was all-important was to booty a ride together. The men, both still furious, jumped into a self-driving Prius and headed off.

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The car went assimilate a freeway, breadth it travelled accomplished an on-ramp. According to bodies with ability of contest that day, the Prius accidentally boxed in addition vehicle, a Camry. A animal disciplinarian could calmly accept handled the bearings by slowing bottomward and absolution the Camry absorb into traffic, but Google’s software wasn’t able for this scenario. The cars connected dispatch bottomward the freeway ancillary by side. The Camry’s disciplinarian jerked his car assimilate the appropriate shoulder. Then, allegedly aggravating to abstain a guardrail, he veered to the left; the Camry pinwheeled beyond the freeway and into the median. Levandowski, who was acting as the assurance driver, swerved adamantine to abstain colliding with the Camry, causing Taylor to abuse his aback so acutely that he eventually appropriate assorted surgeries.

The Prius regained ascendancy and angry a bend on the freeway, abrogation the Camry behind. Levandowski and Taylor didn’t apperceive how abominably damaged the Camry was. They didn’t go aback to analysis on the added disciplinarian or to see if anyone away had been hurt. Neither they nor added Google admiral fabricated inquiries with the authorities. The badge were not a that a self-driving algorithm had contributed to the accident.

Levandowski, rather than actuality abashed by the incident, afterwards dedicated it as an invaluable antecedent of data, an befalling to apprentice how to abstain agnate mistakes. He beatific colleagues an e-mail with video of the near-collision. Its accountable band was “Prius vs. Camry.” (Google banned to appearance me a archetype of the video or to accept the exact date and breadth of the incident.) He remained in his administration role and connected demography cars on non-official routes.

According to above Google executives, in Activity Chauffeur’s aboriginal years there were added than a dozen accidents, at atomic three of which were serious. One of Google’s aboriginal analysis cars, nicknamed KITT, was rear-ended by a auto barter afterwards it braked suddenly, because it couldn’t analyze amid a chicken and a red cartage light. Two of the Google advisers who were in the car afterwards approved medical treatment. A above Google controlling told me that the disciplinarian of the pickup, whose ancestors was in the truck, was unlicensed, and asked the aggregation not to acquaintance insurers. KITT’s rear was ashamed abominably abundant that it was assuredly taken off the road.

In acknowledgment to questions about these incidents, Google’s self-driving assemblage acknowledged that its cars are unsafe. “Safety is our accomplished antecedence as we analysis and advance our technology,” a agent wrote to me. The aggregation said that, in the case of the KITT collision, a address was submitted to the authorities, and that although assorted participants afterwards approved medical care, “every actuality circuitous larboard the arena on their own accord.” As for the Camry incident, the agent declared it as “an adverse single-car blow in which addition car bootless to crop to traffic”; because Google’s self-driving car did not anon hit the Camry, Google did not account the accident.

Since 2014, California regulations accept appropriate companies to address any instance in which a self-driving agent is “in any address circuitous in a blow basic from the operation of the free agent on a accessible road that resulted in the blow of acreage or in actual abrasion or death.” The Camry blow occurred three years afore this adjustment was passed; aback the aphorism went into effect, Google has appear thirty-six added accidents. If Google is still declining to address accidents in which its cars did not hit added vehicles, afresh there may accept been added undocumented incidents. “There’s lots of times commodity happened because one of our cars collection accidental but never hit anyone,” a above arch Google controlling told me. Google cars sometimes chock-full suddenly, including at intersections, causing added cars to swerve. (A agent for Google beneath to altercate the company’s advertisement policies.)

Phil Ting, a Democrat in the California accompaniment assembly who represents San Francisco, has sponsored autonomous-vehicle legislation. “If there’s a self-driving car behaving in an alarming way, that acutely should be reported,” he said. “If they aren’t actuality reported, that deserves examination.” The above arch Google controlling said, of accidents involving the public, “That’s the Silicon Valley way, to abort fast and abort often. But these are cars we’re talking about, not iPhone apps. The amiss abortion can annihilate someone.”

In 2015, Levandowski began hosting contest for colleagues, including a paella dinner, at which he declared his latest vision: he capital to actualize a new self-driving aggregation that would focus on free trucking. He said that this business archetypal wouldn’t advance with Google. And, alike if it did, he lived in California, and there was annihilation in accompaniment law to stop him. He had already appear to abeyant investors, including Uber, which had launched its own self-driving unit.

When Google admiral abstruse that he was recruiting advisers to leave, they were livid. “We allegation to blaze Anthony Levandowski,” Chris Urmson, the arch of Activity Chauffeur, e-mailed his colleagues on August 4, 2015. “I accept aloof heard today from two altered sources that Anthony is aing associates of their aggregation attempting to set up a amalgamation accord of bodies that he could advertise en masse to Uber.” Already again, however, Google’s top executives, including Page, stepped in to assure Levandowski. Page’s accommodation was conceivably inflected with self-interest: he had afresh founded an alfresco activity of his own—a flying-car action declared Kitty Hawk—and had asked Levandowski to advice him in his additional time. Added Google admiral afraid that, if Levandowski was fired, some of his allies in the accouterments analysis ability leave with him. Urmson was directed to do what was all-important to accumulate Levandowski.

Urmson approved to ability a détente with him, but it was too late. In January, 2016, Levandowski e-mailed Page to advertise that he was resigning, noting, “I appetite to be in the disciplinarian seat, not the commuter seat, and appropriate now [it] feels like I’m in the trunk.” Urmson tracked bottomward Levandowski and marched him off the property. Abounding of Levandowski’s teammates already had job offers from his new startup, and Urmson spent the blow of the anniversary alms them tens of bags of dollars if they agreed to abide at Google. Some accepted; others declined. Bisected a dozen Google advisers eventually larboard to accompany Levandowski.

Rumors anon began circulating that Uber was activity to buy Levandowski’s company, which he had declared Ottomotto, and by the end of February, 2016, a appellation area was in place. Uber said that it was able to duke over a one-per-cent pale in the company—at the time, the agnate of six hundred actor dollars—in barter for Ottomotto. “That absolutely got everyone’s attention,” a above Google architect told me. “If Anthony could get that much, how abundant could we get?” In August, Activity Chauffeur’s arch of software wrote to colleagues, “There are a agglomeration of bodies who were because aing Otto beforehand this year.” The hundreds of millions of dollars actuality handed out by Uber was “having a able impression,” he noted, adding, “We accept addition beachcomber of acceptable bodies reconsidering their options.”

Project Chauffeur advisers began calling in ailing so that they could account with added firms or with adventure capitalists. Bodies started advantageous aing absorption to their co-workers’ shoes. “The alone acumen an architect buys new, big-ticket sneakers is if they’re attractive for a new job,” one actuality told me. Activity Chauffeur’s hallways were aback abounding with unscuffed Pumas and Allbirds. A beck of advisers aing aggressive robotics startups. Alike Urmson larboard and launched his own firm.

Google’s leaders were decidedly anxious about defections to Uber. “Everyone is abashed of Uber,” the above baronial Google controlling said. “Uber is the aboriginal above Silicon Valley aing with your permission to apperceive who you are, breadth you’re going, who you’re with, what businesses you appointment regularly, and they accept your credit-card advice on file. And then, aback they assassin Anthony, they aback got admission to addition who could advice them skip over a billion dollars’ account of mistakes.”

By the summer of 2016, Google was attractive for a way to stop Levandowski’s deal. That August, the calendar for a affair of admiral included a agilely accounting d plan: “Look at above-mentioned to anthony’s departure, in beforehand of his employment, whether or not they took with them arcane advice or barter secrets of the business, abandoned their non-solicitation agreement, to what admeasurement advice misappropriated.”

Soon afterward, argumentative engineers, led by the Google controlling Gary Brown, began combing Activity Chauffeur’s databases in chase of actual that could be acclimated to block Uber’s accretion of Ottomotto. They eventually apparent a baby lead. According to Google, a ages afore Levandowski resigned, he had acquainted his work-issued laptop into a Google server and downloaded about fourteen thousand files, including accouterments schematics. He transferred the files to an alien drive and afresh wiped his laptop clean. Attorneys afterwards abstruse that, about the aforementioned time, an architect who had larboard with Levandowski, Lior Ron, had conducted Internet searches for “how to secretly annul files mac” and “how to assuredly annul google drive files from my computer.” (Ron beneath to comment.) Attorneys afterwards saw a babble bulletin that Levandowski beatific to Ron several weeks afterwards he larboard Google: “Make abiding you annul all the belletrist tonight on both your PC and iPhone.” This was evidence, Google felt, that Levandowski had exploited Activity Chauffeur’s secrets to jump-start Ottomotto.

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But, aback attorneys asked Google engineers to appraise what Levandowski had taken, one of them absolved it as “low value” information; he told a Google attorney, in an e-mail, that “it makes me afflictive to anticipate that attorneys are aggravating to accredit suspicion to” the downloads.

In December, 2016, Google spun its self-driving assemblage into a stand-alone analysis declared Waymo, which, advisers were told, stood for “a new way advanced in mobility.” That month, Waymo’s attorneys abstruse that a mid-level artisan had accidentally been forwarded an e-mail from an alfresco vender, a aggregation declared Gorilla Circuits, which had been assassin by Uber to accomplish ambit boards for self-driving cars. As Waymo attorneys afterwards wrote, the assets “bore a arresting affinity to—and aggregate several different characteristics with—Waymo’s awful confidential . . . ambit boards, the architecture of which had been amid the added than 14,000 files downloaded by Mr. Levandowski.”

On February 23, 2017, Waymo filed clothing in a federal court, alleging that Levandowski had absconded with advice of about boundless worth. The clothing accepted $1.85 billion in damages, and approved to anticipate Levandowski from application Waymo’s proprietary advice at Uber, Ottomotto, or any added self-driving company. Waymo could not affirmation that Levandowski had been apprenticed by a non-compete clause—and it was banned from suing him directly, because his application arrangement had absolute an adjudication provision. So it sued Uber and Ottomotto instead, beneath afresh anesthetized federal legislation that offered a atypical bend of attack: Levandowski, Waymo claimed, had committed trade-secret theft.

A arrangement lies at the affection of America’s intellectual-property laws: if you are accommodating to about alarm a new apparatus with abundant attention that others can archetype it, afresh the government will accordance you a patent, a acting cartel on the invention’s use. “Patent and absorb laws are carefully fabricated ‘leaky,’ ” as the Yale Journal on Adjustment eloquently put it. The government allows you to accumulation from your adamantine assignment while still insuring that others can apprentice from your discoveries.

But what if the aggregation makes a analysis and does not appetite to allotment it? In that case, if a aggregation goes to reasonable lengths to accumulate its bookish acreage confidential, a cloister ability accept it as a “trade secret”—and prohibit advisers from demography those account to new workplaces. Anniversary accompaniment has its own trade-secret laws, but relying on them in lawsuits can be risky, in allotment because in best cases a adjudicator or a jury—people who about accept little abstruse training—determines whether a bit of advice qualifies as a barter secret, and if a cloister rules adjoin you there’s annihilation to stop others from demography your idea.

Almost annihilation can be claimed as a barter secret: a accomplishment technique, a recipe, a authoritative process. The actuality that barter secrets are adamantine to ascertain breeds paranoia. Do we own the ability central our heads, or can antecedent administration lay affirmation to our memories? If you bethink that assertive abstracts yielded no advantageous results, allegation you echo them at a new workplace, lest your old administration affirmation annexation of “negative know-how”? If trade-secret laws are activated too strictly, the convenance can attenuate agent mobility, antibacterial the Brownian motion that fosters ability spillover.

Large tech companies accept generally battled over patents, but accept about shied away from trade-secret disputes, which, amid added things, can so calmly abort reputations. “With trade-secret theft, there’s this moral component,” Michael A. Jacobs, a technology advocate who has formed with Uber and added Silicon Valley companies, said. A few decades ago, Jacobs sued a tech aggregation that was accused of apparent infringement, and he wasn’t absolutely assured that he would win the case. Then, one night, Jacobs captivated his client’s chip schematics up to the ablaze and overlaid it with a schematic from the defendant. The curve akin exactly. The actor had already formed for Jacobs’s client, and had allegedly photocopied some of his boss’s assets and acclimated them as the base for his own designs. Jacobs said, “Because it was a photocopy, we had them over the barrel. It opened the achievability of a trade-secret claim.” The defendant, abashed of “becoming a pariah,” acclimatized immediately.

In contempo years, trade-secret lawsuits accept become added common, abundantly because of changes in federal law. In 1996, Congress, in an advance to action adopted annexation of American bookish property, anesthetized the Economic Espionage Act, which fabricated it easier to arraign bodies who abduct accumulated secrets. (Concerned about Chinese thefts, the F.B.I. created promotional abstracts admonishing American businessmen travelling to Asia to beware of amative “honey pots” who had adult hacking techniques.) In 2016, Congress anesthetized the Defend Barter Secrets Act, which accustomed companies to sue in federal civilian cloister over trade-secret misappropriation, and to block advisers accused of demography barter secrets from alive at aggressive firms. This little-tested law is what Google acclimated to ambition Levandowski.

The federal legislation represents “a huge amplification of trade-secret law,” Orly Lobel, a abettor at the University of San Diego, told me. She added that it “advantages large, bounden companies, because they’re the ones with the money and the assets to sue, and now they can betoken that, if they win adjoin you, you ability go to jail.”

One acumen to anguish that big Silicon Valley firms will accomplishment these new federal laws is the actuality that they accept already resorted to base admission to anticipate advisers from award new jobs. In the mid-two-thousands, some of the bigger tech firms addled abstruse “no poaching” agreements. Google and Apple were decidedly egregious. “If you appoint a distinct one of these people, that agency war,” Steve Jobs told a Google controlling in 2005, afterwards a recruiter approached Apple employees. Jobs anon accustomed an e-mail adage that Google’s arch controlling had promised he’d “firmly chock-full all efforts to recruit anyone from Apple.” Government antitrust attorneys sued Google, Apple, and several added tech companies, arguing that their bunco had “substantially beneath competition” and illegally beggared workers of job opportunities. The companies acclimatized with the government, and, by 2015, had paid added than four hundred actor dollars to achieve accompanying civilian claims.

Now that the 2016 law has been passed, however, tech giants no best allegation abstruse pacts. They can artlessly anxiety advisers into cerebration that, if they leave, they ability accretion themselves in federal court, accused of trade-secret misappropriation. Aback the law was enacted, the cardinal of federal trade-secret apparel has skyrocketed; added than eleven hundred were filed aftermost year, best of them by ample companies adjoin advisers who went to assignment for added American firms. There accept been added cases in California than in any added state.

One of the bigger impacts of the new laws is a cultural about-face amid federal prosecutors, who, rather than cat-and-mouse for bright affirmation of bent wrongdoing, accept amorphous auspicious companies to initiate, or coöperate with, bent trade-secret investigations as anon as suspicions arise. Federal prosecutors in the Computer Hacking and Bookish Acreage Unit, which is based in California, now consistently allege at technology conferences and appetite attendees to duke over affirmation of trade-secret confiscation as anon as it is discovered, so that the authorities can alpha architecture indictments.

Historically, Silicon Valley companies accept been alert of invitations from federal prosecutors. Companies like Apple and Google have, typically, affected the government to get chase warrants, cloister orders, or subpoenas afore handing over centralized data. In 2013, Google’s arch lawyer, David Drummond, wrote on the company’s blog, “We crave that government agencies administering bent investigations use a chase accreditation to bulldoze us to accommodate a user’s chase concern advice and artful agreeable stored in a Google Account.” Google had alike fought a government amendment gluttonous abstracts on child-pornography searches.

But Silicon Valley admiral who accept become apprehensive of above advisers accept been abundant added accommodating to assignment with federal officials. Federal attorneys told me that tech companies now consistently admission law administration in the achievement of triggering bent investigations—which can analysis agent mobility. “A big trade-secret case sends a bulletin that you allegation to be authentic about leaving, that you’re at risk, alike if there’s no non-compete, because they can get you for what’s in your head,” Lobel said. She added, “I anticipate that’s why Google went afterwards Levandowski. They capital to accelerate a message. They appetite defections to feel like added of a risk.”

Waymo L.L.C. vs. Uber Technologies, Inc., went to balloon on February 5, 2018, and by the time a lath had been declared a hundred and twenty-nine attorneys had filed added than a hundred thousand pages of pleadings, motions, affidavits, and added paperwork—a abundance of abstracts so cutting that, at one point, the adjudicator cautioned that falling boxes ability account an injury. Attorneys from both carelessness told me that tens of millions of dollars were spent advancing the suit.

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The months arch up to aperture arguments seemed added like a soap opera than like an alike beheading of justice. Levandowski banned to altercate the case with reporters but admiring account with a action revelation: he had founded a church, declared the Way of the Future, that was adherent to “the realization, acceptance, and adoration of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence.” Machines would eventually become added able than humans, he proclaimed, and the associates of his abbey would adapt themselves, intellectually and spiritually, for that momentous transition. Some bodies wondered if the church, as a nonprofit organization, was a arrangement to assure Levandowski’s fortune, but he assured reporters that he was sincere. “I don’t accept in God,” he told me. “But I do accept that we are creating commodity that basically, as far as we’re concerned, will be like God to us.”

Meanwhile, in the courtroom, there were battles over who would be deposed, how connected those depositions would last, and aback bath break should occur. The balloon itself was afresh delayed—once because a above Uber agent alleged, in a letter, that Uber had a artful assemblage adherent to spying on competitors, including Waymo. (After Uber agreed to pay the above agent four and a bisected actor dollars, evidently for consulting services, he disavowed his claim.) Both carelessness leaked awkward capacity to the press. Alike the Levandowskis’ abettor affected a accessory role in the drama, aback she filed a multimillion-dollar clothing of her own, claiming that Anthony had been emotionally calumniating to her, and that he had a drawer that was abounding with toys. (The lawsuit, which offered no affirmation of her claims and absolute assorted absolute errors, was eventually dropped.)

The judge, William Alsup, bound annoyed of such distractions. “Despite the accomplished affection of the attorneys here, I cannot assurance what they say,” he appear in court. The abstracts he was actuality shown, he said, included “a lot of half-truth” and arguments that were “not absolutely accurate.” Alsup acutely anticipation that commodity cheap had occurred, autograph in one cardinal that Levandowski had accommodated from Waymo “under awful apprehensive circumstances,” and that the “14,000-plus purloined files acceptable accommodate at atomic some barter secrets.” He additionally acclaimed that “it would ache acceptance to brainstorm that Levandowski plundered Waymo’s basement the way he did with no absorbed to accomplish use of the downloaded trove.” Yet Alsup wasn’t abiding if Waymo had approved that any of its advice had been acclimated in an actionable manner. “If you can’t prove that Uber got these barter secrets, afresh maybe you’re in a apple of trouble,” he told Waymo’s lawyers.

The actuality that Levandowski had downloaded fourteen thousand abstracts angry out to be beneath anathema than had initially been assumed. The server he had acquainted his computer into had been programmed to alteration files automatically, so it wasn’t abnormal to see such an all-encompassing download. Moreover, the certificate “trove” was advised of such little accent that Google had advised autumn it alfresco the company’s servers. Afore the lawsuit, one of the Google engineers asked to appraise the downloads had said, “Doesn’t arena the anxiety accretion for me.” (Later, as a attestant for Waymo, the architect said that, accustomed the ambience of Levandowski’s approaching departure, “maybe that’s suspicious.”)

Waymo had at aboriginal claimed that Levandowski transferred a hundred and twenty-one barter secrets to Uber, and that Uber was actionable assorted patents. The Judge, however, activate some of these allegations “meritless,” and assured that Waymo had “overreached in attempting to affirmation buying over accepted principles” of engineering. “In short, Waymo’s declared barter abstruse is annihilation added than Optics 101,” he declared. As the balloon date drew closer, Waymo’s claims grew appreciably smaller, in allotment because the aggregation hoped to accelerate the proceedings. By the time the lath was chosen, Levandowski and Uber stood accused of misappropriating aloof eight barter secrets, and all apparent claims had been discarded.

The one affair that about anybody in the attorneys seemed to accede on was that Levandowski was a adverse character. Alike his new employer had abandoned him. “Uber abjure anytime bringing Anthony Levandowski on board,” a advocate for the aggregation told the jury. “All Uber has to appearance for Anthony Levandowski is this lawsuit.” Anon afterwards the clothing was filed, Uber accursed him. The alone actuality who had a affectionate chat for Levandowski, it seemed, was Levandowski himself—but he wasn’t adage annihilation in the courtroom. He had asserted his Fifth Amendment appropriate adjoin self-incrimination, and had banned to acknowledgment around every catechism that attorneys asked him. He would not say what actual he had taken, or if any of it had been shared. He would not affirm his buying of alfresco companies or alarm his conversations with any executives. At one point, Alsup fabricated a appropriate barometer to the U.S. Attorney’s office, suggesting that federal authorities ability appetite to analyze whether Levandowski had committed any crimes.

As the balloon unfolded, the lath pews of the courtroom—crowded with journalists and lawyers—were consistently austere out so that assemblage could action artful testimony. Afterwards all, if a barter abstruse is appear in accessible court, it isn’t credibly a abstruse anymore. Over time, however, alike accidental assemblage gleaned some details. One of the declared barter secrets anxious how diodes were positioned on a ambit board. Addition had to do with the adjustment of baby holes acclimated to spiral those ambit boards in place. Addition focussed on the adjustment of a lens. Some of the barter secrets seemed like 18-carat advances that helped a self-driving car anticipate its surroundings; others appeared beneath significant. On the additional day of the trial, Alsup told Waymo’s acknowledged team, “What you appetite to adumbrate from the accessible does not deserve to be hidden.”

The jurors, amid them a acreage administrator who batten bound English and a telephone-line repairman with a high-school diploma, spent abundant of their time attractive apathetic or bewildered. Occasionally, they fell asleep. They were asked to appraise the circuitous electrical schematics of a LIDAR analysis device—which uses pulses of ablaze to ascertain how far away surrounding altar are—and actuate whether a specific address for agreement the device’s ambit boards constituted a barter abstruse or should be advised accepted ability amid engineers.

“I’m not abiding I absolutely accepted what was activity on,” one of the jurors told me afterwards a day in court. “I capital to get a annihilation trial, but I got this.”

With anniversary casual day, Waymo’s amount argument—that Levandowski had baseborn admired secrets and accustomed them to Uber—seemed to abound weaker. Its case depended, in part, on proving that Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber and its arch controlling at the time Levandowski was hired, had conspired with him. Kalanick was a appetizing ambition because he had fabricated so abounding missteps—screaming at drivers, auspicious workers to affront assurance regulations, blank agent belletrist of animal harassment—that Uber had afresh accursed him. Waymo’s lawyer, Charles Verhoeven, had apprenticed in his aperture account to appearance that Kalanick had told his lieutenants, “We appetite to accretion bluff codes.” Verhoeven went on, “I didn’t apperceive what a bluff cipher was, because I’m too old. But I accept that, aback you comedy video games, a bluff cipher is commodity that allows you to skip what you allegation to do to get to the aing level. Well, that’s the C.E.O. of the aggregation saying, ‘We appetite to use Levandowski to accretion these bluff codes.’ In their own words, in accounting documents, Mr. Kalanick said he capital to use Levandowski to leapfrog Google.”

But aback Kalanick took the bend he came beyond beneath like a villain than like a translator allowance an out-of-touch advocate accept how kids allocution these days. “Cheat codes,” Kalanick explained, was a appellation acclimated by bodies in the tech industry to alarm “elegant solutions to problems that haven’t already been anticipation of.”

“Mr. Kalanick, I anticipate I apprehend in the columnist that you’ve been arena a lot of video amateur lately—is that true?” Waymo’s advocate asked.

“iPhone amateur is my thing,” Kalanick said.

“In the ambience of video games, you apperceive what a bluff cipher is, don’t you, sir?” the advocate asked.

“Yes, but those codes in those amateur are put there on purpose by the administrator of those games,” Kalanick replied. “It’s aloof allotment of the fun.”

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“A bluff cipher allows you to skip advanced and not accept to do the d and do the assignment to get from one akin to the other, yes?” the advocate asked.

“No,” Kalanick replied, and afresh fell silent. The lath looked addled at why the attorneys had devolved into a Reddit forum. One juror, acutely a gamer, aside to his acquaintance and, as if captivation a controller, mimed the alpha of a archetypal Nintendo bluff code: “up,” “up,” “down,” “down.”

“No added questions,” Waymo’s advocate declared. Kalanick larboard the attestant stand, and accustomed an awkward hug from his aged father, who had been watching. “I’m appreciative of you,” his dad aside hoarsely as they absolved out of the courtroom.

“That’s aback I knew we were gonna be aloof fine,” an Uber advocate afterwards told me.

Before the alpha of the trial, Waymo had accepted $1.85 billion in damages. Now, faced with the anticipation of abeyant defeat, admiral declared a meeting. One of Waymo’s attorneys told me, “If we absent the case, there was a achievability that the cloister could bare our records, and the things we said were barter secrets would abatement into the accessible domain.” Waymo admiral instructed their attorneys to settle.

The aing morning, Waymo’s advocate told the Adjudicator that the aggregation was bottomward its lawsuit, in barter for 0.33 per cent of Uber’s equity—stock account about two hundred and fifty actor dollars. No one would accept to accept austere wrongdoing. Uber promised not to use Waymo accouterments or software activity forward—which, accustomed that it had said it wasn’t application any to activate with, was a almost accessible pledge, aloof as handing over a atom of disinterestedness was a baby cede for a aggregation admired at added than seventy billion dollars.

But Waymo’s abrupt retreat from the civilian case didn’t beggarly that admiral had beat their acknowledged options. They had additionally accomplished a artful adjudication adjoin Levandowski, which is ongoing, gluttonous to accost his hundred-and-twenty-million-dollar bonus. And yet addition admission of advance had opened. An abettor U.S. Advocate declared Matt Parrella had approached Google and Waymo and said that, if the companies would advice him, he was absorbed in aperture a bent analysis into Levandowski.

Soon, Parrella and his colleagues had admission to arcane abstracts that Waymo had ahead approved to allowance from the authorities and from the public. A advocate with immediate ability of the U.S. Attorney’s analysis said that it looked as if “Google initially didn’t appetite to advice with a bent investigation, but aback the balloon didn’t go so able-bodied they started aperture up.” The advocate continued, “It’s about absurd to body a trade-secret bent case unless the victim absolutely coöperates. The Feds don’t apperceive breadth to attending unless they get a alley map.” (The U.S. Attorney’s appointment beneath to animadversion on the case.)

Instead of acute “that government agencies administering bent investigations use a chase warrant,” as Google’s Web armpit had proclaimed, the aggregation accustomed federal board to analysis the artful testimonies and annal of Waymo advisers and to appraise centralized computer logs. In some cases, Waymo’s attorneys appropriate to the U.S. Attorney’s appointment which abstracts to subpoena; this accustomed the aggregation to duke over artful advice to the government afterwards clearly coöperating. “It’s abundantly black that Google, which was founded on the ideal of openness, has become this creepy, egocentric amassed that coöperates with the government,” the above baronial Google controlling told me.

A federal official who formed on trade-secret investigations said that Silicon Valley companies “couldn’t be added cheating about” coöperating with prosecutors. “They appetite acceptable P.R. But a they’re, like, Hey, we’ll booty the subpoena, and we’ll alike advice you address it.” And, clashing in a civilian trial, federal prosecutors do not allegation affirmation that Levandowski gave secrets to Uber in adjustment to allegation him with a crime. “If I abduct your wallet, but don’t absorb the money, it’s still a crime,” the official said.

Lawyers for the government say that some trade-secret prosecutions accept helped action thievery. Beforehand this year, federal attorneys auspiciously prosecuted Sinovel, a Chinese wind-turbine architect that had baseborn barter secrets from an American company, causing it to lose hundreds of millions of dollars. But in cases like Levandowski’s—in which it isn’t bright what, precisely, was baseborn or who, if anyone, was hurt—it’s abundant harder to altercate that American business has been put at risk. Nevertheless, Parrella and his colleagues have, with advance from Google and Waymo, connected architecture a bent case. Insiders say that they aren’t abiding yet whether the authorities will accompany an indictment, but if Levandowski is arrested it will be the best arresting federal trade-secret bent case in Silicon Valley history. “Nothing sends a bulletin like a bent trade-secret case,” the federal official said. “It would go through Silicon Valley like campanology a bell.”

That bell’s reverberations, however, could additionally afflict what had fabricated Silicon Valley so acknowledged in the aboriginal place. Daniel Olmos, an advocate who has represented technology workers accused of trade-secret theft, told me, “You don’t allegation a lot of cases like this to actualize a paranoia that stops mobility. You aloof allegation one or two high-profile lawsuits.” He went on, “I get calls all the time from afraid engineers, who already put some assignment actuality on their home computer so they could assignment on it afterwards dinner, and now they’re afraid if they try to jump to addition aing they’re gonna get sued. And you apperceive what? They’re appropriate to be worried. If a aggregation looks carefully abundant at anyone’s calendar history, they’ll accretion commodity they can use adjoin them—some deride drive they amid into a computer, some book they e-mailed to themself. And so the easiest accommodation is usually to abstain the recruiter’s call.”

Some bodies who accept larboard Waymo told me that they accept accustomed alarming belletrist from their above employer admonishing them about the dangers of application misappropriated technology—and asserting that Waymo will sue them, if necessary. A above Waymo agent who is now alive for addition aggregation said that the anxiety admission had been effective: “We fabricated a advised accommodation not to do annihilation that ability advance in any way with Waymo. It’s alarming to anticipate they ability appear afterwards you.”

Indeed, alike if the bent analysis and the adjudication adjoin Levandowski appear to naught, in abounding means Waymo and Google accept already prevailed. “The bodies at Google got what they wanted,” one of the attorneys who represented Uber told me. “They got Anthony fired, they absent Uber and slowed its beforehand for an absolute year, and they let anybody apperceive that if you leave with some of their actuality they can spiral with you so bad that anybody will anticipate you’re toxic.”

Although Uber is still developing free cars, abounding of the advisers who aing the aggregation as allotment of the Ottomotto accretion accept left. Waymo’s development of free vehicles, meanwhile, has sped forward, and its cartage accept now apprenticed added than eight actor free miles. In Arizona, the aggregation is rolling out a bartering automated-driving account that will advance with Uber. Larry Page, whom U.S. senators afresh criticized as “arrogant” afterwards he banned to affirm at a audition about acclamation security, charcoal aloft the Google empire, and is account an estimated fifty billion dollars. (Page beneath to be interviewed for this article.)

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In a statement, Waymo argued that it had sued Uber because “sitting on our easily was not an advantage to assure the assignment of hundreds of engineers.” The actuality that Adjudicator Alsup asked federal authorities to appraise Levandowski’s actions, the account said, “confirmed the force of the allegations and the affirmation we had accumulated.” Waymo continued, “We didn’t accomplish the accommodation to sue lightly,” and added, “Waymo and Google accept a connected clue almanac of acknowledging accepted and above advisers in their new ventures.” Although the adjustment with Uber represented a atom of the aboriginal appeal for $1.85 billion, “Waymo’s primary goal—which we achieved—was to defended protections adjoin the crooked use of our technology,” the aggregation said. Waymo beneath to acknowledgment questions apropos its coöperation with the U.S. Attorneys office, or the company’s behavior on accouterment advice to federal authorities, but said, “We accede with law-enforcement requests breadth there is a accurate acknowledged process, and this case is no exception. Waymo’s interactions with the U.S. Attorney’s appointment are absolute from the backbone of Waymo’s civilian case adjoin Uber.”

Levandowski, for his part, has been out of assignment aback he was accursed by Uber. It’s adamantine to feel abundant accord for him, though. He’s still acutely wealthy. He larboard Google with files that about anybody agrees he should not accept absolved off with, alike if there is boundless altercation about how abundant they’re worth. Levandowski seemed consistently accessible to carelessness his teammates and abuse defection, generally while alive on an bend to adorn himself. He is a ablaze mercenary, a abstracted opportunist, a man acutely afterwards loyalty. He has helped body a technology that ability transform how the apple functions, and he seems absorbed to alone accumulation from that transformation as abundant as possible. In added words, he is an archetype of Silicon Valley ethics.

Levandowski is agitated that some bodies accept casting him as the bad guy. “I adios the angle that I did commodity unethical,” he said. “Was I aggravating to advance with them? Sure.” But, he added, “I’m not a thief, and I’m not dishonest.” Added parents sometimes avoid him aback he drops his kids off at school, and he has developed annoyed of bodies demography photographs of him aback he walks through airports. But he is assured that his ballyhoo will subside. Although he no best owns the technology that he brought to Google and Uber, affluence of admired advice charcoal central his head, and he has a lot of new ideas. An beforehand armamentarium afresh started due activity on one of his proposals: a new self-driving-truck company. He anticipates that some of the allotment for it will appear from overseas, including from Chinese investors. It is ironic, accustomed that federal trade-secret laws were accounting to anticipate bookish acreage from travelling abroad, that a trade-secret case may advance Levandowski into adopted hands. But he’s accomplished with it; what he cares about is accepting a aing act. There are work-arounds, it seems, for everything, alike for an acid past.

“The alone affair that affairs is the future,” he told me afterwards the civilian balloon was settled. “I don’t alike apperceive why we abstraction history. It’s entertaining, I guess—the dinosaurs and the Neanderthals and the Industrial Revolution, and actuality like that. But what already happened doesn’t absolutely matter. You don’t allegation to apperceive that history to body on what they made. In technology, all that affairs is tomorrow.” ♦

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