Self-driving car project is Google’s ambitious project. When Chris Urmson, the head of self-driving car project, left Google last August, it was a major loss for Google. Chris Urmson had been working on Google since seven years.
When Tesla lawsuit was filed this Thursday, it showed the true intention of Urmson and what he was doing after he left the Google’s project. Urmson had teamed up with the former director of Tesla Autopilot, Sterling Anderson, and founded Aurora Innovation, a private company that will be producing self-driving cars.
According to the lawsuit filed in California state court by Tesla, Anderson stole "hundreds of gigabytes of data." The lawsuit alleges that Anderson was using stolen data for his and Urmson’s company Aurora Innovation.
In the lawsuit, Urmson has been identified as Anderson's business partner for Aurora Innovation. The lawsuit states that Anderson and Urmson used a laptop that was originally issued by Tesla and worked on their “private project” in Tesla premises.
Interestingly, Aurora Innovation reveals a different case. The statement sent to Business Insider by Aurora Innovation states that “Tesla is showing unhealthy fear for competition and a startling paranoia. This is an abuse of the justice system. It is an attempt to damage personal reputations and throttle a competitor. Aurora Innovation will prove these untrue accusations wrong in court.”
According to a source of Business Insider, Waymo, Google's self-driving company, is discussion about the possible actions in this matter. When Business Insider contacted Chris Urmson, he did not respond.
In August 2016, there was a series of executives’ departures from Google and Urmson was one of them. Anthony Levandowski was also one of the Google’s executives who left the company. After abandoning Google, Levandowski founded a self-driving truck company called Otto, which was later acquired by Uber. Levandowski also happens to be a co-founder of Google's car project. Jiajun Zhu is another co-founder of self-driving car, who left Google in August last year. After leaving Google’s self-driving car project, Zhu joined an artificial intelligence startup called Nuro.
It is reported that last August, there were signs internal struggles inside Google. When Uber launched public trials for self-driving car, Google was worried about the competition. According to Bloomberg reporting in September, Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet was vouching for full autonomy for the project, whereas some employees, in order to launch the products fast in the market, were vouching for partial autonomy.
Urmson declined to explain his departure from Google, but said that he wasn't frustrated about the progress of the project.
After the departures of executives, Google has made a strategy to launch self-driving cars soon. In December, Google formed Waymo, an independent company under Alphabet for the purpose of launching the products. Waymo is working on innovative ideas such as developing cars with not steering wheels.
Before he left Google, Urmson had advocated on fully fledged self-driving cars. He even lobbied on the Senate for regulations to allow fully self-driving cars. He vouched, for the benefits of Google, for cars with no steering wheels or pedals to be driven on the roads.
It is speculated that Urmson left Google because the company left its original idea about producing steering-wheel-less pod cars. However, whether this is true or false will be known only when Urmson’s new company Aurora Innovation releases its new product in the market.
When asked for comment, Google declined to say anything about why Urmson left the position of CTO at Google.
"There will be 1.8 million miles of auto driving in the future, thus, I have decided to resign and discover my new ideas," said Urmson while leaving the job in August. "I will be twice lucky in case I am able to find another idea that turns in obsession and more than that."