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Tesla trial unmasks hard headhunting of China's Xpeng

NEW YORK – Tesla has sued one of its former engineers for having spelled out proprietary proprietary engineering before shutdown to Chinese electric car manufacturer Xpeng Motors – the second time an employee at the Guangzhou-based company faces business secrets in the US

Tesla took the clothing Wednesday against Cao Guangzhi, a former member of Tesla's self-executing law. The complaint, filed in a district court in Northern California, came eight months after the US government accused another Xpeng engineer of stealing business secrets from Apple.

Xpeng's founder and CEO, He Xiaopeng, called the trial "questionable" on a Friday post on Chinese social media platform Weibo. A statement issued by Xpeng said that the company "has met and will comply with all applicable laws and regulations" and that it has launched an inquiry into the matter.

During the past year, Xpeng has aggressively expanded its research and development team. The start, which had about 1

000 employees in early 2018, now has over 3000 employees, of which 70% work in R&D. Just last week, the company opened nearly 40 new positions in its self-driving department.

Founded in 2014, Xpeng has received funding from Alibaba Group Holding and Foxconn Technology Group, or Hon Hai Precision Industry.

Cao, who joined Xpeng in January, worked as a data vision researcher in Tesla's autopilot department. Tesla's complaint claims that Cao uploaded over 300,000 files and directories from Tesla's source code to his personal iCloud account after receiving a job offer from Xpeng on December 12.

A driver takes the hands of wheels on a Tesla Model S P100D at a launch event in Dublin, Ireland.

© Getty Images

Prior to Tesla, Cao was senior technician at Apple where he worked on the first generation dual camera for iPhone, now running its popular portrait mode, showing Cao LinkedIn profile.

Zhang Xiaolang, the first Xpeng employee to come under scrutiny, was charged in San Jose in July of July. He designed and tested circuit boards to analyze sensor data for Apple's self-driving project.

The US accusations claimed that he suddenly left his role and took with them confidential files, including a 25-page document with detailed schematic drawings of a circuit board included in Apple's proprietary infrastructure technology.

Cao and Zhang are far from the only Xpeng employees who sat on an American technical heavyweight like Tesla or Apple.

In May 2018, Xpeng's chief engineer and head of AI, Husam Abu-Haimed, went from Cruise Automation, General Motors' autonomous driving subsidiary.

The autonomous driving center Wu Xinzhou made the move in December from Qualcomm, where he was senior civil engineer autonomous driving.

UBS estimates that about 50% of all new cars will have basic autonomous equipment by 2020, and the annual revenue for advanced driver assistance systems will come up to $ 70

This is a pie like China's Baidu, Didi Chuxing and Huawei Technologies, along with US giants like Apple, Uber, Tesla and Google, want a bit of it.

] As a technology company striking a driverless future, team conflicts over proprietary autopilot technology have been hit into the spotlight. In 2018, the industry saw its most high-profile trade secret theft lawsuit between Google's Waymo and Uber, who paid $ 245 million to the former.

On Wednesday, Tesla also filed a trade secret theft suit against an employee of Zoox

However, Tesla's complaint against Xpengs Cao comes at a time when China and the United States remain locked in a month-long trade war, where Washington has repeatedly accused China for intangible theft and economic espionage.

Gaston Kroub, a lawyer at Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov, a New York law firm specializing in intellectual property rights, said that Tesla, like other Silicon Valley companies, is trying to send a message to their current and former employees about business secrecy theft will not be tolerated.

"Chinese self-driving companies must therefore be very diligent when hiring ex-Tesla – or other Silicon Valley employees to make sure employees do not take confidential material with them, or even worse use the confidential material in their new job, Kroub says in an e-mail interview.

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