Tesla filed a lawsuit in California this week alleging that a former employee stole source code for its Autopilot self-driving technology before leaving the company to join a Chinese startup. 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). According to the lawsuit, Tesla alleges that Cao copied more than 300,000 files before leaving Tesla.

Xpeng currently employees at least five ex-Tesla employees, according to the lawsuit. Massive Chinese companies including Alibaba and Foxconn hold large stakes in the self-driving tech firm. The company unveiled its G3 crossover at CES in 2018, and it drew immediate comparisons to Tesla's Model X. Apple, which is also known to be working on vehicle autonomy, made a similar accusation of software theft last year after a former employee left to work for Xpeng.

Tesla filed a separate suit against four other former employees that now work for U.S.-based Zoox, which is also working on autonomous vehicle software. That suit alleges that propriety information was stolen from Tesla relating to logistics and warehouse inventory operations.

UPDATE: We received the following statement from Xpeng:

XMotors.ai, Inc., responds to the reports regarding Tesla, Inc.'s lawsuit against Mr. Guangzhi Cao, a former employee of Tesla and a current employee of XMotors.
1. XMotors fully respects any third-party's intellectual property rights and confidential information. The company has been complying and will comply all applicable laws and regulations.
2. The company has initiated an internal investigation into this matter.
3. XMotors has by no means caused or attempted to cause Mr. Cao to misappropriate trade secrets, confidential and proprietary information of Tesla, whether such allegations by Tesla being true or not.
4. XMotors was not aware of any alleged misconduct by Mr. Cao.


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