Tesla settles lawsuit with former employee accused of stealing Autopilot trade secrets

Tesla Shanghai China Factory
Guangzhi Cao maintains he didn’t share any Tesla trade secrets with anyone.

  • Tesla and an ex-engineer who left the firm for rival Xpeng settled a lawsuit about trade secrets.
  • Tesla accused the employee of uploading Autopilot source code to his personal iCloud account.
  • The employee, Guangzhi Cao, maintains he never shared Autopilot information with anyone.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Tesla settled a lawsuit against an ex-engineer who copied the source code of its Autopilot driver-assistance tech before taking a job with a Chinese competitor, according to documents filed Thursday with a US district court.

Former Tesla employee Guangzhi Cao will pay the electric vehicle maker an undisclosed sum as part of the settlement, though he maintains he never did anything improper with the Autopilot code.

Tesla filed the lawsuit against Cao in 2019, claiming that he copied Autopilot source code to his personal iCloud storage account before abruptly resigning from the company in January of that year to join XMotors, the US arm of Chinese EV maker Xpeng. Tesla alleged that Cao had uploaded more than 300,000 files and directories related to Autopilot to his iCloud account.

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Autopilot is Tesla’s advanced driver-assistance system that comes standard on all of its new cars. The technology automates some elements of highway driving, like keeping a car in the center of its lane and keeping up with traffic. It’s considered to be one of the more advanced such systems on the market.

According to the documents made public on Thursday, Cao admitted that he saved the files to his personal account and that files remained on his personal devices when Tesla filed the lawsuit but says he intended to delete them before leaving Tesla.

In a statement to Insider provided by his attorney, Cao said that he never accessed any Tesla data after leaving the company and never shared any of the data with XMotors or anyone else. Tesla and Xpeng did not respond to requests for comment.

Tesla competes closely with Xpeng and other Chinese automakers in China, the world’s largest market for electric cars. Tesla operates a plant in Shanghai and is expanding its presence in the country to include a research and development facility where it will design a more affordable EV.

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