One of the premiere self-driving car engineers made a number of scathing comments about Tesla CEO Elon Musk to his former colleague, dismissed Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.
“We’ve got to start calling Elon on his shit,” Anthony Levandowski said in a text to Kalanick, according to Business Insider Tuesday, which obtained the official court documents on the exchange. “I’m not on social media but let’s start ‘faketesla’ and start give (sic) physics lessons about stupid shit Elon says.”
The “stupid shit” he was referring to includes Musk’s personal explanation of the LiDAR sensor, the functionality that Levandowski helped develop for his driverless truck startup Otto. The LiDAR technology helps a vehicle map the environment around it — a critical component for driverless car development.
Levandowski also sent a message citing the reports that a driver died while using Tesla’s autopilot capability.
“Tesla crash in January which implies Elon is lying about millions of miles without incident,” Levandowski said. “We should have LDP on tesla just to catch all the crashes that are going on. Got this from ford who’s debating call (sic) him out on his shit.”
The driver, though, allegedly ignored automated warnings and was watching a “Harry Potter” movie while operating the vehicle. (RELATED: Tesla Poaches 11-Year Veteran At Apple To Speed Up Autopilot Tech Development)
Only texts sent by Levandowski were revealed due to a lawsuit between Uber, which acquired Otto, and Google parent company Alphabet — the tech conglomerate Levandowski worked for prior to Otto and Uber.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco banned Levandowski from working on Otto’s LiDAR technology after he ruled that he broke his contract with Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving vehicle subsidiary. Waymo specifically accuses Levandowski of stealing 14,000 files worth of classified information during his tenure there, and eventually taking it to Otto. Many of the files allegedly included trade secrets, like the company’s blueprint for LiDAR. Uber swore in court it didn’t tell Levandowski to take Google’s data before it purchased Otto.
The lawsuit has been a whirlwind, from administrative mistakes to Levandowski refusing to testify by exercising his Fifth Amendment rights. Alsup called for a criminal investigation into the accusations that Otto stole trade secrets from Waymo, as a separate legal complaint from the ongoing civil case he was presiding over.
There were other pieces of communication that mentioned Musk, like “Elon does have shit” and “Elon is going to make going to NSD not as big of a scary thing for the public… which should be good.”
Levandowski even provided the link to a TechCrunch parody story titled “A totally real conversation between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg about a rocket,” while adding “enjoy this exchange” with a winking face emoticon. The story was poking fun at a testy situation in which Musk’s SpaceX rocket exploded upon liftoff and destroyed one of Zuckerberg’s satellites in the process. (RELATED: Elon Musk’s Failed Ball Of Fire Made Mark Zuckerberg Look Bad, And Zuck Is Not Happy)
But since only messages sent by Levandowski are shown, the full context for those is not clear.
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