Former Tesla employee admits uploading Autopilot source code to his iCloud
Tesla believes he stole company trade secrets and took them to Chinese
startup, Xiaopeng Motors
Guangzhi Cao, a former engineer at Tesla, admitted in a court filing this
week that he uploaded zip files containing Autopilot source code to his
personal iCloud account in late 2018 while still working for the company.
Tesla sued Cao earlier this year for allegedly stealing trade secrets related
to Autopilot and bringing them to Chinese EV startup Xiaopeng Motors, also
known as Xmotors or XPeng, which is backed by tech giant Alibaba.
Cao denied stealing sensitive information from the automaker in the same
filing. His legal team argued he “made extensive efforts to delete and/or
remove any such Tesla files prior to his separation from Tesla.” Cao is now
the “head of perception” at XPeng, where he is “[d]eveloping and
delivering autonomous driving technologies for production cars,” according
to his LinkedIn profile.
According to a joint filing from the two parties that was also filed this
week, Tesla has subpoenaed documents from Apple. While Apple is not involved
in this case, a former employee who worked on the tech company’s secretive
autonomous car project was charged by the FBI with stealing trade secrets
That employee allegedly Air Dropped sensitive data to his wife’s laptop and
was also caught on CCTV leaving Apple’s campus with a box of equipment. He
had left his job at Apple to take a position at XPeng before being arrested.
Cao was also a senior image scientist for Apple for two years before he
joined Tesla, according to his LinkedIn profile.
The suit comes at a time when the US is locked in a trade war with China and
has accused the nation and some of its biggest companies of committing
so-called “economic espionage.” Tesla, Apple, XPeng, and a lawyer for Cao
did not respond to requests for comment.
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