Uber fires star self-driving car researcher

Uber Technologies has fired Anthony Levandowski, a high-profile engineer who had led the ride-hailing company's foray into self-driving cars.

Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL) in February filed a lawsuit against Uber that claims the company and Levandowski, who once helped lead the internet giant's own autonomous vehicle program, had colluded in stealing trade secrets. Uber denies the allegations.

An Uber spokesperson said Tuesday that Levandowski, formerly head of the company's Advanced Technologies Group, was dismissed because he failed to meet a deadline related to an internal investigation into the case. A federal court has ordered Uber to return documents Alphabet accuses him of stealing.

Uber executive Eric Meyhofer, who took charge of the self-driving car unit in April, will continue in that role, the company said.

The allegations surrounding Levandowski date to late 2015, shortly before he left Google to launch a startup, called Otto, that focused on developing autonomous driving technology for big-rig trucks. Uber bought the company in 2016 for $680 million. Alphabet alleges Levandowski put thousands of confidential files on a laptop before leaving to start Otto. 

Levandowski didn't immediately respond to a phone message AP left on Tuesday asking him for comment.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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