Currently, he works as "Head of Perception" at the Chinese vehicle startup.
The filing suggests that Cao stole important documents past year, deleted around 120,000 files in December, deleted proof of the theft (disconnected his iCloud and deleted browser history) and left Tesla on January 3.
Along with typical information demands in the early fact-finding phase of the lawsuit that are spelled out in a court filing last week - Tesla wants to see the engineer's emails and have a forensic analysis conducted on his electronic devices - the company founded by Elon Musk disclosed that it has also served the iPhone maker with a subpoena. The company found itself making headlines when a former Apple engineer was arrested in July a year ago after leaving Cupertino for the startup and taking autonomous vehicle trade secrets with him.
The documents Tesla seeks from Apple aren't specified in the filing, but the thinking may be that while the Silicon Valley titans are rivals in the ultra-hot self-driving space, they share a common enemy in Xpeng. The engineer has pleaded not guilty.
A former Tesla employee is being sued for stealing the source code to Tesla's Autopilot and uploading it to his iCloud account.
"Despite the vague innuendo in Tesla's complaint (and in its recitation of the "facts" above) that its trade secrets are "at risk" and that Tesla 'must learn what Cao has done with Tesla's IP, '. the truth of this case is that Cao has done precisely nothing with Tesla's IP", according to a joint statement from Cao responding to the electric auto company's allegations against him.
Tesla says Cao uploaded its Autopilot-related source code to his personal iCloud account long before he left the firm, which violates the company's policies and employee agreements.
Xiaopeng Motors itself has not been accused of legal wrongdoing, but in the complaint, Tesla specifically calls out the company for copying its ideas: "Inspired by and on a mission to beat Tesla, XMotors reportedly designed its vehicles around Tesla's open-source patents and has transparently imitated Tesla's design, technology, and even its business model". Only the headline has been changed.