Tesla files a suit against ex-chief of Autopilot division for stealing company info

Article by Christian A., on February 3, 2017

Tesla accuses its former Autopilot head, Sterling Anderson of stealing sensitive information and poaching Tesla employees while still working for the company. The lawsuit was filed last week in the Superior Court of California against Anderson and another Tesla employee, Chris Urmson.

Anderson has worked for the electric car company since 2014 and was appointed as the head of the Autopilot team. Tesla found out that Anderson and Urmson have started recruiting co-workers to join them in their new startup since 2016. Tesla claims Anderson has allegedly downloaded the secret files using the company’s laptop, but has apparently deleted all the traces. Due to this, the company filed a suit against the two former employees for stealing intellectual proprietary information.

Since Tesla is so advanced when it comes to self-driving technology, other car companies are trying to catch up with the pace by purchasing startups. Tesla is very much aware of how automakers have built a “get rich quick environment” because of this. It was also stated in the charges how a demoware could be bought from a team of programmers for billions of dollars. To cite an example, General Motors has acquired Cruise Automation for almost 1 billion USD in 2016. Otto, another self-driving startup firm, was bought by Uber by as much as 680 million USD in the same year.

Based on the allegations, Anderson and Urmson have created a business venture under the name Aurora Innovation while working in the company’s premises. In a statement issued by Aurora in behalf of Anderson, the startup denies the charges and said that the “meritless lawsuit” shows “paranoia” and “fear of competition”.

The suit also claims that the pair have tried to recruit at least 12 Tesla employees but were able to recruit only two during that time. As a result, Tesla is seeking damages for breach of contract among other charges. In response to the claims, Aurora Innovations stated that it is looking forward to disproving the false allegations in court and that the company is in fact expecting to build a successful self-driving venture.

Chris Lattner immediately replaced Anderson after the former Tesla executive was terminated last January 4. Lattner used to work for Apple together with another Cupertino hotshot, Matt Casebolt. The two are now currently working for Tesla with Casebolt as senior director for engineering, closures and mechanisms while Lattner looks after the development of Tesla’s self-driving technology. Since joining the engineering team last month, Lattner was already appointed as vice president for the Autopilot software.

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