Tesla is suing the former director of its Autopilot program, accusing him of stealing confidential information about its driver-assist system. The EV firm has also accused its former employee of trying to recruit at least a dozen former colleagues for a new startup, according to Bloomberg.

Tesla
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Tesla also targets Chris Urmson

On Thursday, Tesla alleged that Sterling Anderson started working on Aurora Innovation LLC — his new autonomous-car venture – last summer. The EV firm filed a complaint in state court in San Jose, California, saying that Anderson had been collaborating with the former head of Google’s self-driving car project, Chris Urmson.

According to the lawsuit, Anderson partnered with Urmson to launch their competing venture. Anderson downloaded “hundreds of gigabytes of data” containing sensitive company information but didn’t return it upon his termination, alleges the lawsuit. Also Anderson has been accused of taking his Tesla laptop to Urmson’s home and accessing a document with the title “Recruiting targets.”

Tesla is seeking an order from court to bar Urmson, Anderson and Aurora Innovation from recruiting its employees and contractors for one year after Anderson’s date of termination from the company. The Palo Alto-based company also wants to block any use of its proprietary information related to autonomous driving. Urmson and Anderson didn’t announce their startup prior to the lawsuit.

Rising demand for experts in self-driving tech

Voracious demand for automotive engineers working onself-driving cars is rising in Silicon Valley, and the litigation highlights this. Majors like General Motors and Uber Technologies have snapped up small startups such as Cruise Automation and Otto, while new entrants such as Zoox have secured licenses for the testing of autonomous vehicle prototypes on California roads.

In a statement on Thursday, Aurora said, “Tesla’s meritless lawsuit reveals both a startling paranoia and an unhealthy fear of competition. 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.”

As of now, there are no comments from Tesla, Anderson or Urmson on the case.

On Thursday, Tesla shares closed down 0.77% at $252.51. Year to date, the stock is up more than 18%, while in the last year, it is up almost 25%. The stock has a 52-week high of $269.34 and a 52-week low of $141.05.

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