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Inside the Self-Driving Bromance of Travis Kalanick and Anthony Levandowski

August 15, 2017

Uber and Waymo's nasty legal dispute has taken a strange turn, as the release of a series of text messages between former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and his star self-driving-car engineer, Anthony Levandowski, charts the blossoming of a close connection between the two.

For those unfamiliar, Waymo has alleged that Levandowski stole secrets related to its lidar system and brought them with him to Uber. The lawsuit has become a blockbuster, because depending on the ruling, it could severely damage Uber's plans—which have already taken several hits—to roll out self-driving taxis across its massive ride-hailing network. As part of the suit, Waymo thought texts between the two might shed light on whether Kalanick, and by extension Uber, was indeed after the trade secrets.

It offers up some interesting gems, including the fact that Levandowski and Kalanick both paid a lot of attention to Tesla:

9/14/2016 Levandowski: Tesla crash in January … 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.

9/22/2016: 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 [saying his cars don’t need lidar]

Levandowski also spent time schooling Kalanick in the intricacies of self-driving technology, and Kalanick was more than happy to hand out management advice in return. The hoped-for bombshell that would prove Uber illegally used Waymo's proprietary technology isn't there, but you can still check out the choice cuts over at IEEE Spectrum.

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