A former Tesla employee admitted to uploading Autopilot files to his iCloud account, but denied he's using them at the Tesla competitor where he now works

Xpeng MotorsAly Song/ReutersA staff member of Xpeng Motors stands next to the charging station at the company's booth during the media day for the 2019 Shanghai auto show.Aly Song/Reuters

  • Guangzhi Cao, a former Tesla employee who worked on the company's Autopilot system, admitted in a July 8 court filing to uploading files related to Autopilot to a personal iCloud account before leaving to work at a competitor.
  • Tesla sued Cao in March, saying he could be using the files at the electric-vehicle startup Xpeng Motors, where he now works.
  • Cao denied that he is using the files to develop autonomous-driving technology at Xpeng Motors.
  • Cao's attorneys said in the July 8 filing that he "made extensive efforts to delete and/or remove any such Tesla files prior to his separation from Tesla."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Guangzhi Cao, a former Tesla employee who worked on Autopilot, the electric-car maker's semi-autonomous driver-assistance system, admitted in a July 8 court filing to uploading files related to Autopilot to his personal iCloud account before leaving to work at a competitor.

Tesla sued Cao in March, alleging that he had uploaded over 300,000 files and directories related to Autopilot to his iCloud account and created .zip files containing Autopilot's source code. The company said in its lawsuit that Cao could be using the files at the electric-vehicle startup Xpeng Motors, where he's currently employed. Xpeng Motors has developed driver-assistance features that are similar to Autopilot, Tesla said.

Read more: Tesla's largest outside investor has long been tight-lipped on Elon Musk. That's starting to change.

In the July 8 filing, Cao admitted to uploading Autopilot-related files to his iCloud account and making .zip files containing Autopilot source code, but he did not specify the size of those files. He denied that he is using the files to develop autonomous-driving technology at Xpeng Motors. Cao's attorneys said in the filing that he "made extensive efforts to delete and/or remove any such Tesla files prior to his separation from Tesla," and Cao denied that his actions damaged Tesla or created the potential for future harm.

Cao admitted in the filing that he did not tell Tesla about the Autopilot information he had copied before he left the company, but said the company never asked him about it.

Tesla and Xpeng Motors did not immediately respond to Business Insider's requests for comment.

Tesla has also sued former employees who left to join the autonomous-driving startup Zoox, saying they stole proprietary information and trade secrets that helped Zoox accelerate the development of its warehousing, logistics, and inventory-control operations. At the time, Zoox and the employees named in the lawsuit did not respond to Business Insider's requests for comment. Zoox did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Concerns about employees bringing proprietary technology to competitors extends beyond Tesla in the autonomous-driving industry. The Google spin-off Waymo alleged in a 2017 lawsuit that former engineer Anthony Levandowski stole trade secrets from the company that were later used by Uber's autonomous-driving division. The suit was settled in 2018, with Uber agreeing to give Waymo $245 million in equity, though Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a blog post that he did not believe Uber had used or received any proprietary information from Waymo.

Read Cao's full response below:

 

Have you worked for Tesla? Do you have a story to share? Contact this reporter at mmatousek@businessinsider.com.

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