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Tesla lawsuit exposes fierce headhunt by China's Xpeng

NEW YORK – Tesla has sued one of its former engineers for alleged theft of proprietary self-propelled technology before acquitting Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer Xpeng Motors – the second time a Guangzhou-based employee has been exposed to theft in the US USA

Tesla filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against Cao Guangzhi, an ex-member of Tesla's self-drive team. The lawsuit, which was filed in a Northern California district court, came eight months after the US government indicted another Xpeng engineer for stealing Apple's trade secrets.

Xpeng's founder and CEO He Xiaopeng called the lawsuit on a Friday as a "questionable" post on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. A statement from Xpeng said the company had "complied with and complied with all applicable laws and regulations" and had opened an investigation into the matter.

Last year, Xpeng has aggressively expanded its research and research development team. The startup, which employed around 1

,000 people at the beginning of 2018, now employs more than 3,000 people, 70% of whom work in research and development. Last week, the company opened almost 40 new positions in its self-drive division.

Xpeng was founded in 2014 and received funding from Alibaba Group Holding and Foxconn Technology Group or Hon Hai Precision Industry.

Cao, he joined Xpeng in January and worked as a computer vision scientist in the autopilot department of Tesla. Tesla's complaint claims that Cao uploaded over 300,000 Tesla source code files and directories to his personal iCloud account after receiving an Xpeng job offer on December 12th.

A driver takes his hands off the Tesla Model S P100D at a launch event in Dublin, Ireland.

© Getty Images

Prior to Tesla, Cao was a senior engineer at Apple, where he worked on the first generation of the dual camera for the iPhone, which now activates the popular portrait mode, shows Cao's LinkedIn profile.

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

The US charges alleged that Zhang took away confidential files after suddenly leaving his role, including a 25-page document with detailed schematic drawings of a board that is part of Apple's proprietary infrastructure technology.

Cao and Zhang are far from the only Xpeng employees who worked in an American tech heavyweight like Tesla or Apple.

Xpeng's Chief Engineer and Chief of AI, Husam Abu-Haimed, who joined in May 2018 from Cruise Automation, the General Motors subsidiary of autonomous driving.

Wu Xinzhou, head of the autonomous driving center, moved from Qualcomm in December where he served as Senior Director of Engineering Autonomous Driving.

UBS estimates that by 2020, approximately 50% of all new cars will have autonomous base equipment and annual sales for advanced driver assistance systems will reach $ 70 billion, compared to $ 10 billion to $ 15 billion today.

This is a cake that the Chinese Baidu, Didi Chuxing and Huawei Technologies all want alongside American giants like Apple, Uber, Tesla and Google. [19659002] While tech companies are racing into a driverless future, litigation over proprietary autopilot technology has come into focus. In 2018, the industry best-known lawsuit against theft of trade secrets was settled between Google's Waymo and Uber, which paid $ 245 million to the former.

On Wednesday, Tesla also filed a theft protection against an employee at Zoox, an American self-drive startup.

However, Tesla's lawsuit against Xpeng's Cao comes at a time when China and the US are trapped in a months-long trade war in which Washington repeatedly accuses China of stealing intellectual property and industrial espionage.

Gastro Kroub, lawyer at Kroub, Silbersher & Kolmykov, an intellectual property law firm in New York, said Tesla, like other Silicon Valley companies, is trying to send a message to its current and former employees that is a trade secret Theft will not be tolerated.

"Accordingly, Chinese companies must be very careful in the field of self-propelled when they hire former Tesla or other Silicon Valley employees to ensure that these employees do not intervene confidential material with them, or, worse, use them this confidential material in their new jobs, "Kroub said in an e-mail interview.

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