According to Safehaven, Tesla and Apple believe that former employees who took new positions at a Chinese competitor stole their self-driving car technology.
Tesla filed a lawsuit against Xmotors.ai, which is the United States research section of Xpeng, an autonomous and electric vehicle startup based in China; the company accused an engineer who previously worked on its Autopilot system of “stealing thousands of highly confidential files” when he took a new position at XMotors.ai. The tech giant also filed a subpoena for Apple to cooperate in the suit.
Xpeng denies having a role in the former Tesla engineer’s “alleged intellectual property theft,” Safehaven says.
Similarly, last year, a hardware engineer was charged with allegedly downloading Apple’s propriety files after leaving the company for a new position at Xpeng; the engineer was part of Apple’s autonomous, electric car secretive development project, Safehaven reports.
Why the big stink?
One of the major reasons why Telsa and Apple are trying to bring Xpeng to court is due to the current trade war with China. The United States is trying to stay punitive and on top of the competition, but China may catch up, especially as tech company Huawei is predicted to be one of the dominant global suppliers of 5G networks for smart devices, according to Safehaven.
As a result, Tesla and Apple want to stay in first place when it comes to autonomous vehicles – it’s “a high priority,” Safehaven says. Tesla has been working on its fully autonomous vehicles, and may soon deploy its new Fully Self Driving Chip (which will serve as an upgrade model for older Tesla vehicles) by the end of the year.
Additionally, Apple recently hired Tesla’s former vice president of engineering, which suggests that the company is making its own strides in building autonomous vehicles, Inverse says. The tech company has been seriously taking on autonomous vehicles since spring 2017, when CEO Tim Cook revealed its focus on autonomous systems.