Tesla claims Autopilot manager stole data, poached staff

Tesla has sued Sterling Anderson for breaking his contract by launching a rival self-driving car firm

Tesla has sued a former Autopilot manager, accusing him of stealing company secrets and trying to poach staff when he departed earlier this month.

The Elon-Musk-founded car firm has filed suit against Sterling Anderson, saying the former staffer broke his contract and tried to hire away Tesla staff when he left to start his own self-driving car company with a former Google employee. Anderson disputes the allegations.

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Anderson is accused of taking hundreds of gigabytes of Tesla data after downloading it to his personal hard drive, but also faces claims that he developed his own self-driving car tech while working for Tesla using its equipment and while he was supposed to be working on the company's Autopilot. He's also accused of wiping his company-provided iPhone to destroy evidence of his solicitation of Tesla employees.

"Tesla cannot sit idly by when an employee like Anderson abuses his position of trust and orchestrates a scheme to deliberately and repeatedly violate his non-solicit agreement, hide evidence, and take the company's confidential and proprietary information for use in a competing venture," Tesla said in the lawsuit, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In the lawsuit, Tesla is looking to stop Anderson and his partner, Chris Urmson formerly of Google's own self-driving car project from recruiting its staff for a year and using any of the data taken from Tesla for its own company, called Aurora Innovation.

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Anderson and his startup Aurora dispute the allegations. "Tesla's meritless lawsuit reveals both a startling paranoia and an unhealthy fear of competition," Aurora said in a statement sent to Bloomberg. "This abuse of the legal system is a malicious attempt to stifle a competitor and destroy personal reputations. Aurora looks forward to disproving these false allegations in court and to building a successful self-driving business."

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