Tesla has today filed a lawsuit against Guangzhi Cao, a former engineer who the company accuses of copying more than 300,000 files that contained source code related to Tesla’s Autopilot software. According to his LinkedIn profile, Cao is a software engineer that previously worked at Apple developing the iPhone’s first generation dual camera which evolved into Portrait Mode; he moved to Tesla in 2017 as a member of the Tesla Autopilot AI/Vision team.
Tesla accuses Cao of stealing information around January time when he was preparing to leave Tesla to join China’s Xiaopeng Motors Technology Company Ltd (also referred to as Xpeng Motors). According to Reuters, four former employees and a U.S. startup, Zoox Inc., have also had lawsuits filed against them by Tesla for stealing trade secrets that pertain to "developing warehousing, logistics and inventory control operations.”
Xiaopeng has among its investors some well-known firms including Alibaba and Foxconn. Primarily the firm operates in China despite showing off an electric car in Las Vegas last year. With Tesla coming to Chinese shores to build cars to sell to Chinese customers, Xiaopeng will be facing direct competition soon.
Tesla says in its lawsuit that Xiaopeng hired at least five former Tesla employees. A Xiaopeng subsidiary also previously hired someone Apple accused of stealing trade secrets related to its self-driving car project too.
These types of lawsuits are becoming more frequent as companies all around the world race to build fully autonomous cars and cement their place as market leaders.