Tesla Accusing Ex-Employee Of Selling Self-Driving Technology To Chinese Rival

Brand new Tesla Model S cars sit on front of a Tesla showroom
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Tesla has been renowned as a pioneer in its field, creating incredible, more environmentally friendly cars that run without petroleum gas and working on technology that will one day mean cars will be able to completely drive themselves.

That technology has been improving drastically under the Tesla banner, but the brand has recently had some trouble with Chinese rival Xiaopeng Motors. The California-based company has accused a former employee, engineer Guangzhi Cao, of stealing their self-driving tech, the Autopilot source code, and selling it to the Chinese startup, according to a report by CNN.

The legal complaint filed by Tesla states that “Cao uploaded complete copies of the company’s self-driving source code to his personal Apple iCloud account.”

It is believed that he took a total of “300,000 files and directories” during his time working with Tesla.

But the lawsuit then explains that after Cao was given a job at Xiaopeng Motors, he suddenly deleted 120,000 of those files and even disconnected his Apple account from his work computer. He then proceeded to repeatedly log into his Tesla account and delete his browser history.

In the meantime, Xiaopeng Motors has denied any knowledge of such underhanded business regarding Cao, but state that it has launched an internal investigation within the company to determine if Tesla’s accusation is true.

“XMotors fully respects any third-party’s intellectual property rights and confidential information. The company has been complying and will comply [with] all applicable laws and regulations,” they said in a statement, according to a recent Reuters report.

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Tesla’s claim goes back to January, shortly before Cao left Tesla for Xiaopeng officially.

Cao is one of four former employees who Tesla is going after in cases of intellectual property theft, according to the lawsuit filed on Wednesday. U.S. self-driving car startup Zoox Inc. is also part of the lawsuit for stealing “proprietary information and trade secrets for developing warehousing, logistics and inventory control operations.”

Tesla has been working on self-driving technology for a while now and has been testing it on the road already. But competition, particularly of the variety that could be promising the same product for a much lower price, could cause a serious problem for them in the long run.

As Reuters points out, Tesla has also started construction on a production factory in Shanghai, putting it in direct competition if the Xiaopeng Motors company has, in fact, gotten ahold of its coding technology.