Tesla has settled a lawsuit against a former engineer who the company claims stole its Autopilot source code before going to Xpeng, a Chinese competitor.
Back in 2019, Tesla initiated a lawsuit against Guangzhi Cao, a former Autopilot engineer who quit to join Xpeng’s autonomous driving team.
In the lawsuit, the automaker claims that Cao downloaded the Autopilot source code to his personal device through Airdrop before leaving and selling it to Xpeng when joining the company.
Xpeng, who has been called a “Tesla clone” for copying Tesla’s Autopilot user interface and even copying its website, was not a party in the lawsuit.
Instead, Tesla focused on Cao’s actions.
The engineer admitted to downloading some of Tesla’s Autopilot source code, but he claims to have deleted it before leaving the automaker and never having transferred it to Xpeng.
In a filing related to the lawsuit, Tesla pointed out that an ex-Apple engineer was criminally accused of doing something very similar when leaving to join Xpeng around the same time as Cao.
The automaker argued that it was a coordinated effort from the Chinese EV startup to steal intellectual property.
Xpeng had also previously hired Tesla’s lead machine learning engineer working on Autopilot, Junli Gu, to lead its autonomous driving program. She left Xpeng last year to launch her own startup.
Cao reportedly also left Xpeng, and now we learn that he settled the lawsuit with Tesla.
Reuters reports that the terms of the settlement haven’t been disclosed, but it did include a payment made by Cao to Tesla:
“Terms of the settlement, which included a monetary payment made by Cao to Tesla, were not disclosed. Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.”
Xpeng again asserted that it “respected intellectual property rights and relied on its in-house developed proprietary R&D and intellectual property.”
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