Tesla alleges self-driving vehicle startup Zoox stole company secrets

  • Tesla alleges self-driving vehicle startup Zoox stole company secrets

Tesla alleges self-driving vehicle startup Zoox stole company secrets

Tesla has filed a lawsuit against four ex-employees saying that they made off with proprietary logistics information.

The electric auto maker filed a lawsuit in the United States on Thursday, alleging that engineer Guangzhi Cao stole key details from Tesla's self-driving auto project and took them to Xiaopeng Motors, a Chinese electric vehicle startup.

Tesla says the employees - Craig Emigh, Christian Dement, Sydney Cooper, and Scott Turner - violated terms of their employment contracts with the electric auto maker when they forwarded confidential information from work email accounts to personal addresses and hired former coworkers from Tesla.

Dement, a former Tesla warehouse supervisor, also forwarded documents to his personal email address, Tesla claims, with the subject line "good stuff".

The theft, according to Tesla, was "blatant and intentional".

"These materials and knowhow were developed by Tesla over many years, and at great expense", the lawsuit reads.

"Absent immediate relief, Tesla believes Cao and his new employer, [XPeng], 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", the lawsuit says. Guangzhi Cao has worked for Xiaopeng Motors (sometimes simplified to Xpeng) since January, according to his LinkedIn profile, serving as "head of perception" (whatever that means). Before that he was one of the very few people that had access to Tesla's Autopilot software and its source code.

Zoox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tesla is accusing four former employees who now work for the robo-taxi startup Zoox of stealing confidential information. On the same day, Tesla alleges, he sent more confidential documents with the note "ooooh man.so much time and effort". The suit alleges that Cao began looking for a new job in November and had already received an offer from XPeng in December.

Allegedly it was a slip up by Emigh, however, that led to Tesla learning about the activity. It seems that Elon Musk's automobile company just can't catch a break.

Trade secrets are a hot button issue, especially in the autonomous vehicle world.

One of them, a former manager at one of Tesla's distribution center, Scott Turner, typed the following words in the email for himself: "you sly dog you". Waymo accused a former employee of bringing its self-driving trade secrets to Uber in 2016 in a case that was settled out of court two years later.

In July, engineer Xiaolang Zhang was arrested and charged with stealing trade secrets from Apple's self-driving project.

The Silicon-Valley automaker hopes to sue four former employees and Zoox, the self-driving startup.

You can see the full text of both lawsuits below.