Uber asks Anthony Levandoski to return any Waymo files with him

After judge William Alsup last week ordered Uber to ''exercise the full extent of [its] corporate, employment, contractual, and other authority'' to force Anthony Levandowski to return any downloaded materials to Waymo, Uber is getting tough on the ex-Waymo engineer.

On 15 May, Uber sent a letter to Levandowski asking him to choose between ''deny[ing] ever having taken any downloaded materials from Google'' or hand over any materials he might have taken from Google. Non-compliance would risk termination of his employment.

Levandowski was technology lead for Google's autonomous vehicle unit and after quitting Google co-founded self-driving truck startup Otto, which was acquired by Uber for $680 million last summer. Levandowski has been accused of downloading tens of thousands of confidential documents related to Google's proprietary LiDAR design before leaving the company and founding Otto.

Uber said in the letter, ''[A]s you know, your employment at Uber is on an at-will basis. See A. Levandowski Employment Agreement, Aug. 17, 2016 5(a) (''August 17, 2016 Employment Agreement''). As a condition of your employment at Uber, you must comply with all of the requirements set forth in this letter. If you do not agree to comply with all of the requirements set forth herein, or if you fail to comply in a material manner, then Uber will take adverse employment action against you, which may include termination of your employment and such termination would be for Cause''.

"While we have respected your personal liberties, it is our view that the court's order requires us to make these demands of you," Uber's general counsel, Salle Yoo, wrote in the letter.

According to commentators, the development raised the possibility of Uber dumping Levandowski, whose expertise in robot-controlled cars was the main reason the ride-hailing company bought Levandowski's startup nine months ago.

Levandowski had been running Uber's self-driving car division, until last month, but no longer does that, nevertheless, he continues to be a vital part of Uber's effort to develop a fleet of robot cars.