(Reuters) – Tesla Inc., filed a lawsuit on Thursday against a former engineer of the company, who claimed that he copied the source code for the auto-pilot technology before he joined a Chinese self-driving car startup in January.
FILE PHOTO: Tesla logo is shown on a ground-breaking ceremony of Tesla Shanghai Gigafactory in Shanghai, China, January 7, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song
The engineer, Guangzhi Cao, copied more than 300,000 files related to the autopilot source code if he is prepared to participate in China’s Xiaopeng Engines Technology Company Ltd., the Silicon Valley car maker said in the lawsuit filed in a California court.
Separately, Tesla’s lawyers on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against four former employees and the U.S. self-driving car startup Zoox Inc., alleging that the employees stole proprietary information and trade secrets for the development of storage, logistics and inventory management operations.
Cao, Xiaopeng and Zoox could not be immediately reached for comment.
Tesla is building a vehicle assembly plant in Shanghai, putting it in direct competition with Xiaopeng and other Chinese companies in the world’s largest market for electric cars.
The auto-pilot is a driver assistance system, which works with certain driving tasks and allows drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, though the company stresses that it still requires driver supervision and not the car autonomously.
Cao’s LinkedIn profile shows he has worked with Xiaopeng since January as “head of the observation”.
Xiaopeng, who debuted an electric car in Las Vegas last year, counts Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Foxconn Technology Co. Ltd. among the investors.
The company, also known as Xpeng Engines, has at least five former Tesla employees, the AMERICAN car manufacturer stated in the lawsuit.
Apple Inc last year and accused of being an ex-employee of stealing trade secrets related to self-driving cars, and joining Xiaopeng’ s U.S. subsidiary.
Several companies are racing to develop the technology required to make cars drive on their own and lawsuits against former employees increasingly, companies strive to be the proprietary information in house.
Alphabet Inc Waymo self-driving vehicle unit took Uber Technologies to court after a former employee stole thousands of confidential documents and was head of the Uber self-driving car project. Uber later paid $245 million to settle the case.
Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham, Bernard Orr