Tesla settles with a former engineer accused of stealing the Autopilot’s source code

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Tesla and former Tesla engineer Cao Guangzhi have reached a settlement after the electric car company accused Cao of stealing the autopilot’s source code. Cao, an engineer focused on autonomous driving, said Reuters that the source code has never been used since he parted ways with Tesla.

In 2019, Tesla sued Cao after the engineer left Tesla to work at its rival, Chinese carmaker XMotors. Tesla accused Cao of stealing trade secrets – specifically the source code for its Autopilot driver assistance software. In the first application Tesla referred to it as the “crown jewel of Tesla’s intellectual property portfolio.” Although Tesla and its fans often compare it to autonomous driving, it is actually more of an advanced form of cruise control and Tesla has come under attack for misrepresenting its possibilities.

Cao left Tesla to work on automated driving technology at Xmotors. He later admitted that he uploaded multiple zip files containing the source code to his iCloud account in 2018 while still working for Tesla. Still, he insisted that he had never used the source code in his work at Xmotors, and continues to insist today.

XMotors confirmed to Reuters that Cao is no longer part of the company and says it respects intellectual property rights. Cao is on hook with Tesla and must pay the company under the terms of the settlement. The details of the settlement have not been disclosed, so it’s unclear how much he owes Tesla.

As a reminder, never upload sensitive business materials to your personal cloud. You may have the best of intentions, but your employers probably won’t assume the same.