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Uber's Levandowski to step aside for duration of Waymo litigation

Uber drivers' cars are parked outside the Ministry of Transportation building during a protest in Taipei, Taiwan February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

(Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] said the head of its self-driving vehicles unit, Anthony Levandowski, will step aside from his role for the remainder of the company's litigation with Waymo, the self-driving car division of Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O).

Levandowski, a former Waymo executive and the central witness in the legal case, will remain with the ride-hailing service, but will be recused from all work related to the LiDAR self-driving technology.

Uber named Eric Meyhofer, the engineering lead of the its self-driving vehicles unit, as Levandowski's replacement for the duration of the Waymo litigation.

Waymo sued Uber in February, alleging theft of confidential information on LiDAR, a technology that allows cars to "see" their environment.

Waymo said Levandowski stole 14,000 of its computer files on autonomous technology before joining Uber.

Uber has said its technology was "fundamentally different" from Waymo's and that the files never ended up on its servers.

A federal judge is set to rule as early as next month on whether to grant Waymo's request for a preliminary injunction to prevent Uber from using the disputed documents.

Levandowski has sought his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and will not testify, over concerns about the possibility of a criminal case being filed.

Business Insider first reported the news of Levandowski stepping aside.

Uber, valued at about $68 billion, has been rocked by a number of setbacks lately, including accusations of sexual harassment from a former female employee and a video showing Chief Executive Travis Kalanick harshly berating an Uber driver.

(Reporting by Gayathree Ganesan and Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar)