Adding to the ongoing tensions between the US and China, a former Tesla engineer admitted in a court filing that he did upload the company's autopilot code to his personal iCloud account last year before taking up a job in a Chinese automobile firm.
Earlier this year, Tesla sued Guangzhi Cao for allegedly stealing trade secrets related to autopilot for Alibaba-backed Chinese electric vehicle (EV)-startup Xiaopeng Motors, also called Xmotors or XPeng.
While Guangzhi admitted to using his "personal iCloud account to create backup copies of certain Tesla information in 2018", he denied poaching any employees from the autopilot team, The Verge reported on Wednesday.
According to Guangzhi, XPeng extended a job offer to him on December 12, 2018. The former Tesla employee claimed he disconnected his personal iCloud account from his Tesla-issued computer "on or around December 26".
After quitting Tesla, he joined XPeng and currently serves as the company's 'Head of perception' where he is "developing and delivering autonomous driving technologies for production cars", according to his Linkedin profile.
Guangzhi was also a senior image scientist for Apple for two years before he joined Tesla.
To strengthen its case against the Alibaba-backed company, Tesla has also collected subpoenaed documents from Apple after one of the iPhone maker's former employee who worked in Apple's secretive autonomous car project was charged by the FBI for stealing trade secrets and later joining XPeng.
The former Apple employee allegedly Air dropped sensitive data to his wife's laptop and was also caught on CCTV camera leaving Apple's campus with a box of equipment. He had left his job at Apple to take a position at XPeng before being arrested.
Citing national security reasons, on May 15, US President Donald Trump effectively banned Chinese tech player Huawei in the US, following which major tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Intel and Qualcomm put restrictions on businesses with the Chinese firm.