Tesla Drops its Lawsuit Against Former Engineer Accused of Stealing IP and Sharing it With Rival EV Startup Xpeng
【Summary】Chinese electric vehicle startup Xpeng announced that Tesla has dropped its lawsuit against one of its former employees. The suit was filed in 2019 with the Northern California U.S. District Court over the theft of intellectual property (IP) related to Tesla’s Autopilot autonomous driving system, which the former engineer worked on before being recruited by Xpeng.
Chinese electric vehicle startup Xpeng announced that Tesla has dropped its lawsuit against one of its former employees.
The suit was filed in 2019 with the Northern California U.S. District Court over the theft of intellectual property (IP) related to Tesla's Autopilot autonomous driving system, which the former engineer worked on before being recruited by rival Xpeng.
"Absent immediate relief, Tesla believes Cao and his new employer will continue to have unfettered access to Tesla's marquee technology, the product of more than five years' work and over hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, which they have no legal right to possess," Tesla wrote in the filing.
The case involves former XPeng employee Guangzhi Cao, who was a key member of Tesla's Autopilot team. Tesla accused Cao of moving more than 300,000 files and directories related to Autopilot and deleting 120,000 files off his work computer after taking a job at rival XPeng.
Like most automakers, Xpeng is developing its own autonomous driving technology.
Tesla claimed that Cao was only one of around 40 people with access to its software source code for Autopilot, adding that Cao quit "abruptly" on Jan 3, 2019 to take a job at Xpeng at its Silicon Valley office, then sharing Tesla's Autopilot IP with Xpeng.
After the suit was filed by Tesla, Xpeng said "XMotors was not aware of any alleged misconduct by Mr. Cao."
Over the past two years, Tesla failed to follow up on the suit, according to Xpeng. The company said that Tesla never made it a party to the lawsuit, even as it determinedly sought to show that Dr. Cao had provided information to XMotors.
"After over two years of extensive discovery, including against XMotors, Tesla has failed to find any substantive evidence that supports its allegations and innuendos against XMotors. Tesla has failed to show any credible evidence that XMotors ever possessed, let alone used, any Tesla information from Dr. Cao," Xpeng added.
In a statement, Dr Cao said that he "regrets and apologizes for the unnecessary harm that Tesla's lawsuit caused to XMotors (Xpeng)." Adding that he's "grateful to his colleagues at XMotors who supported him during this litigation."
Xpeng said that Cao never shared any information with the company and that its autonomous driving technology was developed entirely in-house using all of its own software code. Xpeng accused Tesla of bullying, saying that it was trying to disrupt the progress of its competitors.
"Technology innovation is at the core of our foundation and strategy," Xpeng said in a statement. "In our pursuit of popularizing smart EVs, we respect any competition; however, we will not tolerate any bullying behavior or attempt to disrupt competitors. XMotors fully respects intellectual property rights, and bases its own competitive edge on its in-house-developed proprietary R&D and intellectual property."
Xpeng announced the latest version of its autonomous driving system called Navigation Guided Pilot (NGP) earlier this year. NGP is rolling it for the company's P7 sedan via an OTA update. It supports automated highway driving, including the ability to automatically change lanes.
The Xpeng P7 launched in April 2020 as a competitor to the Tesla Model S in China, costing around half the price.
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