Fired Engineer's Texts With Former Uber CEO Reveals Plan to Take on Elon Musk and Hopes to 'Take Over the World'
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The bitter lawsuit between Uber and Waymo has taken yet another turn as approximately 400 text messages between former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and former Uber and Waymo engineer Anthony Levandowski were released in a recent court filing.
The legal battle centers around Waymo trade secrets allegedly stolen by Levandowski, who worked at Google's self-driving car spinoff, Waymo, before joining Uber following the purchase of his self-driving truck startup in 2016.
The newly released texts detail Levandowski and Kalanick's plans for Uber's self-driving car division and the close relationship they formed over several months.
The texts begin Feb. 13 of 2016, just weeks after Levandowski left Waymo. At this point, Levandowski is working at his self-driving truck startup, Otto.
- 2/13/16 Levandowski: Was awesome. Lots more to come. We ended up wrapping up our truck testing at 2:30!
- 2/13/16: We had a close call but no contact with anyone or anything.
This is likely a reference to a testing of Otto's self-driving trucks. Uber acquired Otto in August 2016 and Levandowski joined Uber to lead its self-driving car efforts.
In April, months before Uber would acquire Otto, the acquisition talks seem to be coming along.
- 4/6/2016 Levandowski: Basically I'd like the freedom to move as needed on the acquisition (and take advice/guidance) but if I can close them within the range we agreed you guys are happy.
- 4/6/2016 Levandowski: Thanks for understanding on the freedom to operate sounds like the language we should get back will work.
An earlier court filing shows that in 2015, before the bad blood between the companies began, Kalanick was looking to partner with Google on self-driving cars. It looks like those hopes were still alive for Kalanick a year later, but that the deal ultimately didn't work out.
- 6/13/2016 Kalanick: Just got word from Drummond that g-co is out
- 6/13/2016 Levandowski: Wow, at least now we know it's a zero sum game
The texts show their relationship evolving, and excitement for the partnership as it comes to fruition.
- 8/14/2016 Levandowski: Super pumped here too. This is going to be epic and I'm ready to forge a victory with ATC and Otto
- 9/19/2016 Levandowski: We're going to take over the world
- 9/19/2016 Levandowski: One robot at a time
They also discuss the competition, Elon Musk, with Levandowski writing that "we've got to start calling Elon on his shit" and seemingly suggesting they start a social media cycle branded "faketesla."
- 9/14/2016 Levandowski: 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.
- 9/22/2016 Levandowski: 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:
You can read more about that exchange here. In October, the two reference Musk again.
- 10/20/2016 Levandowski: Elon does have shit
- 10/20/2016: He's trippin' but might/will blame regulatory as to why it's not available
Read the rest of the texts in the complete filing below: