Tesla has settled a lawsuit with Cao Guangzhi, a former engineer with the company accused of stealing the Autopilot source code in 2019 after leaving the company.
A statement prepared by Guangzhi’s lawyer that was shared to Reuters indicated that a settlement had occurred and that Cao “had never accessed any Tesla data after he left Tesla, or provided Tesla information to XMotors or anyone else.” Guangzhi left Tesla after two years of employment with the Silicon Valley-based electric car company to join XMotors, the United States unit of Chinese EV company Xpeng Motors, who unveiled their new P5 sedan earlier this week.
After Guangzhi left Tesla, the company initiated a lawsuit in 2019 that accused him of taking the Autopilot source code. The automaker said it was the “crown jewel of Tesla’s intellectual property portfolio.” Guangzhi admitted that he had taken some fields that contained the source code mistakenly, as they were located on his iCloud account while he was still employed with Tesla. However, he maintained that he never utilized any of the code for himself, nor did he share it with his new employer or anyone else.
In November 2020, Xpeng announced that it would use LiDAR in its self-driving cars, a strategy that has been criticized by Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk, who once called it “a fool’s errand.”
Now that the lawsuit has been active for some time, Guangzhi’s attorney told Reuters that it has been settled. The case hit a standstill in June 2020 when Tesla was denied access to grand jury materials related to a former Apple employee, Zhang Xiaolang, who left the tech company for Xpeng.
The terms of the settlement have not been made to be public knowledge. It was revealed that Guangzhi did make a monetary payment to Tesla, but the amount is undisclosed.
Guangzhi has officially left XMotors, the company said. While Guangzhi was sued, XMotors was not listed as a defendant in the case. The company maintained that it respected intellectual property rights and relied on its own employees and Research and Development efforts to develop effective software for its cars.