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Tesla’s Woes Escalate After Autopilot Files Stolen in Corporate Espionage

Last Updated September 23, 2020 12:49 PM
Lawrence Meyers
Last Updated September 23, 2020 12:49 PM

As it is, the bevy of departures of employees across many divisions at Tesla has contributed to a brain drain at Elon Musk’s famously troubled company.

Finding and retaining the best workers in the business, as well as people who are able to work in the apparently chaotic environment at the company, is going to be an ongoing challenge.

What makes all of these departures worse, however, is that they are being accompanied by allegations of corporate espionage.

Former Employee Stole 300,000 Documents

Tesla has not been shy about suing former employees who have left for competitive operations, particularly in the area of autonomous driving.

The latest lawsuit  has been filed against Guangzhi Cao, a former Tesla autopilot-division employee. In Cao’s response to Tesla’s March lawsuit, he admits to uploading 300,000 files related to Tesla’s autopilot to his personal iCloud account.

These also included files containing Autopilot’s source code.

Additionally, Cao admits that he never told Tesla that he had engaged in these activities.

There is simply no reason for any individual to have uploaded these files.

In fact, 300,000 files and source code do not represent just “work that you take home.” It seems highly likely that, as Tesla alleges, Cao uploaded all of these files and is using them at Xpeng Motors, a competitor Tesla.

And yet, Cao denies he is using them.

Sure he isn’t…and Tesla vehicles don’t explode all by themselves.

Tesla Hammers Former Employees in Court

This comes on the heels of another Tesla lawsuit against former employees who subsequently became employed at Zoox, another autonomous-driving competitor that has poached over 100 Tesla employees.

There is a smoking gun in that case as well. One of the defendants accidentally sent an email to another defendant’s previous Tesla email. It contained virtually identical proprietary information from Tesla with the Zoox label all over it.

In a controversial lawsuit in 2018, Elon Musk sued former employee Martin Tripp for allegedly leaking proprietary information about Tesla to the media. Tripp responded by saying the material had not been stolen but shared out of a “concern for public safety.”

It must be emphasized that the number of employees who have left Musk’s company should be a huge bearish sign to investors.

If one were to believe everything that Elon Musk has ever said, it seems like it should be the happiest place on Earth, with overworked but enthralled employees working hard to change the world.

Yet the brain-drain at the company is indicative of exactly the opposite.

Where Is the Oversight Inside Tesla?

The corporate espionage is of even greater concern. Virtually any company with proprietary technology has ironclad agreements regarding the sale, theft, or misappropriation of company documentation.

It is shocking that a company like Tesla, which has had access to billions of dollars in capital, would not have protocols in place to prevent this kind of alleged theft from happening.

It shows a lack of oversight on internal controls within the company. That leads right back, as always, to Elon Musk.

Apparently, Elon Musk is too busy trying to dazzle the world with his smoke and mirrors act then protect his own proprietary information.