Tesla suing former Autopilot head for poaching engineers, stealing data

Tesla has almost single-handedly proven that electronic vehicles (EVs) can reliably replace traditional petrol and hybrid vehicles as day-to-day transportation and has grown into a model of technological advancement in a historically staid industry, but lately the feature that has been drawing significant attention is Autopilot. When engaged, Autopilot essentially turns the cars into a sort of self-driving vehicle, and while not without its flaws, the feature is surprisingly effective. With the current race to bring autonomous vehicles to market on a larger scale, it should come as no surprise that companies are looking to tap into Tesla's engineering pool.

One such company has found itself on the sharp end of Tesla's legal sword, however. Tesla has filed suit in California Supreme Court against Aurora Innovation, a startup founded by former Tesla Autopilot head Sterling Anderson, and Chris Urmson, former chief of Google's failed self-driving car project. According to the filing, Anderson violated company non-solicitation agreements when he left Tesla to join forces with Urmson and in the process attempted to bring a dozen engineers with him.

As if poaching employees wasn't enough, Tesla also alleges that Anderson stole hundreds of gigabytes of confidential information from the company prior to his departure. In order to avoid detection, it says Anderson modified timestamps and deleted files from his company-issued laptop in an effort to cover his tracks.

Tesla is claiming that this is all an attempt to jump-start Aurora's self-driving vehicle development so the company can be quickly acquired or bought, taking advantage of the so-called "get-rich-quick environment." It is seeking injunctions to prevent Aurora from recruiting its employees or using its data, along with undisclosed compensatory damages.

For its part, Aurora denies the accusations, saying "this abuse of the legal system is a malicious attempt to stifle a competitor and destroy personal reputations. Aurora looks forward to disproving these false allegations in court and to building a successful self-driving business."

Self-driving vehicles are lining up to be the next big innovation in transportation, so it's hard to imagine this will be the last legal battle Tesla finds itself in.

Source: International Business Times

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