Tesla has sued former Director of Autopilot software Sterling Anderson for breach of contract. Anderson is accused of attempting to steal proprietary information from the company and recruit away other employees. The suit filed on Thursday in the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara states that Anderson intends to start his own autonomous driving start-up, named Aurora while still being employed at Tesla.
Tesla states their reasons for the suit against Anderson as, “attempting to recruit at least a dozen Tesla engineers, taking Tesla’s confidential and proprietary information, and doctoring and destroying evidence in an effort to cover his tracks —all for the benefit of a competing venture he launched while still a Tesla employee.”
Tesla accuses Anderson of conspiring with ex-Google employee Christopher Urmson to create their autonomous vehicle start-up. Tesla used Otto and Cruise as examples of how valuable this information could be to other automakers by stating, “Small teams of programmers with little more than demoware have been bought for as much as a billion dollars. Cruise Automation, a 40-person firm, was purchased by General Motors in July 2016 for nearly $ 1 billion. In August 2016, Uber acquired Otto, another self-driving startup that had been founded only seven months earlier, in a deal worth more than $ 680 million.”
Anderson departed from Tesla in December and was replaced by former Apple veteran Chris Lattner who joins Tesla as VP of Autopilot Software. On the day of the announcement of a management change Anderson sent our a cryptic Tweet saying, “You ain’t seen nothing yet…”
You ain't seen nothing yet…
— Sterling Anderson (@sterling_a) January 11, 2017
Tesla claims that Anderson made several attempts to recruit engineers from Tesla even after his departure from the company. The suit alleges that Anderson would identify engineers to contact at Tesla and would have Urmson reach out in attempts to recruit them. Anderson reportedly would apply the same tactic by recruiting for Urmson from Google. It is unclear exactly how many employees Anderson has poached from Tesla at this time, but Tesla claims three engineers announced their intentions to join Anderson’s team on January 3rd.
Below is a copy of the suit filed by Tesla.