Tesla is suing an ex-employee and his business partner for breach of contract.
According to the suit, former Autopilot program manager Sterling Anderson violated contractual and other obligations on his quest to launch a competing venture.
Anderson allegedly attempted to "recruit at least a dozen Tesla engineers," took "confidential and proprietary information" and doctored and destroyed evidence "in an effort to cover his tracks" on the way to founding self-driving car start-up Aurora.
In partnership with Christopher Urmson, recently departed head of Google's self-driving car initiative, Anderson used his Tesla laptop to download "hundreds of gigabytes" of confidential and proprietary information to a personal hard drive.
The luxury automaker got hip to his scheme, though, and terminated Anderson on Jan. 4 -- the same day he reportedly altered and wiped evidence from his company-issued laptop and smartphone, "all in an attempt to conceal his misdeeds," Tesla said.
"Tesla understands that some employees may decide to pursue other opportunities or even to create a startup of their own, and … is typically supportive of their personal ambitions and respectful of their decisions," according to the complaint, filed on Thursday at the Superior Court of California in Santa Clara.
"However, 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," it continued. "Faced with such extreme and inexcusable misconduct, Tesla has no choice but to act."
Requesting a jury trial, the manufacturer seeks damages for losses as a result of Anderson's breaches, as well as punitive damages for what it repeatedly called "malicious" acts. Tesla also wants an injunction against Aurora's technologies.
"Tesla's meritless lawsuit reveals both a startling paranoia and an unhealthy fear of competition," Anderson, on behalf of Aurora Innovation, said in a statement published by The Verge. "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."
Tesla declined to PCMag's request to comment on the lawsuit; Aurora could not be reached for comment.