In a lawsuit filed in California, Tesla has accused former employee and Autopilot manager Sterling Anderson of stealing proprietary company secrets and software. In addition, Tesla says Anderson worked with Chris Urmson, former head of Google's autonomous car project, of trying to lure Tesla employees away to join a competing tech startup.
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According to the lawsuit, Anderson was a non-technical program manager of Tesla's autopilot team. Anderson allegedly violated his contract by taking information, attempting to hire away at least a dozen employees, and destroying evidence to cover his tracks. The suit says Anderson was attempting to gather resources for his own company while still employed by Tesla. He is also accused of using Urmson as a proxy to try to hire these employees away.
Anderson allegedly did all of this while on his Tesla supplied laptop, at Tesla's office, on Tesla's time. Anderson was fired immediately after taking his Tesla laptop to Urmson's house and accessed a file named "Recruiting targets." In the end, the pair only managed to hire away two employees. The automaker said in the lawsuit that just because the attempts were mostly unsuccessful doesn't mean the act should be excused.
There has been no statement from Tesla, but, unsurprisingly, Anderson has refuted all of the automaker's claims. In a statement to Jalopnik, Anderson claims this is just an attempt by Tesla to stifle any innovation and competition. He also believes this is an attempt to destroy personal reputations.
Anderson joined Tesla late in 2014 in order to oversee development of the then upcoming Model X. He was in an role that, although not technical, oversaw the team working on the Autopilot system.
It's not fully clear how Tesla became aware fully of Anderson's actions. Because he was fired the afternoon after meeting with Urmson, it seems that the automaker had been monitoring the activating on Anderson's Tesla-owned laptop.
Tesla is seeking monetary, non-monetary, and punitive remedies in its lawsuit. Tesla is also wants the defendants to pay any associated legal fees when the lawsuit ends. The lawsuit was filed the morning of January 26, so look for more news as the case moves forward.