Why it matters: Not for the first time, an employee from a large US tech firm has been accused of stealing trade secrets and taking them to Chinese EV startup Xiaopeng Motors. On this occasion, the company in question is Tesla, and the data relates to its Autopilot feature.
Former Tesla employee Guangzhi Cao was sued earlier this year for allegedly stealing the data. In new court filings, he admits to accessing the company’s source code and uploading the files to a personal drive, but denies stealing sensitive information and taking it to his new employer, Xiaopeng Motors, also known as Xmotors.
Cao received an offer to work for XMotors in November 2018. The company found itself making headlines when a former Apple engineer was arrested in July last year after leaving Cupertino for the startup and taking autonomous vehicle trade secrets with him. Cao was also a senior image scientist for Apple for two years before he joined Tesla, reports The Verge.
Tesla says Cao uploaded its Autopilot-related source code to his personal iCloud account long before he left the firm, which violates the company’s policies and employee agreements. Cao's legal team claims he “made extensive efforts to delete and/or remove any such Tesla files prior to his separation from Tesla.”
Xmotors has not been accused of any illegal activities and says it “was not aware of any alleged misconduct by Mr. Cao.” Chairman He Xiaopeng said there was a normal "flow of talent" between his company and Tesla, writes Bloomberg.
Autonomous car tech isn’t the only thing US company employees have been accused of stealing and taking to China. AR headset giant Magic Leap filed a lawsuit against a former engineers for allegedly taking its technology and using it to create a copy for his Beijing-based firm.