Sterling Anderson former head of Tesla’s Autopilot system, and Chris Urmson, ex-head of Google’s self-driving program, have launched a startup in Silicon Valley by the name of Aurora Innovation.
Tesla has sued the former head of its Autopilot system, which is the heart of its self-driving technology, alleging that he tried to recruit at least a dozen of Tesla engineers for his own venture with the ex-head of Google’s self-driving program, while still being employed in the company.
Sterling Anderson, was until January, the non-technical program manager of Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system. During his time in the luxury carmaker, Anderson is alleged to have made employment offers to at least a dozen of his colleagues.
Anderson has tied up with Chris Urmson, who headed Google’s self-driving project for the last seven and half years before leaving in August 2016, to start a new company.
Anderson’s alleged recruiting efforts despite non-soliciting clause in his agreement with Tesla.
A lawsuit has been filed in the Superior Court of California in Santa Clara County.
The move only goes to underscore the competitive environment Tesla and other car manufacturers are in to bring self-driving technology to the masses.
Tesla has thrived in this environment and has been the vanguard of innovations.
Citing what it termed as a “get-rich-quick environment”, Telsa has listed in the complaint the recent acquisition of Cruise Automation by General Motors for nearly $1 billion in July 2016, thus suggesting that Chris Urmson and Anderson were pursuing the same goal with their new startup, Aurora Innovation.
In its lawsuit Tesla is seeking unspecified damages and an injunctive relief citing alleged breach of contract and other civil claims.
Aurora countered the complaint stating that the lawsuit was without any merit and “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,” said Aurora in a statement.
The lawsuit has also alleged that Anderson downloaded “some of Tesla’s most competitively sensitive information” to his laptop. He also erased and wiped data from his iPhone “in an attempt to conceal his misdeeds.”
Tesla terminated Anderson’s employment in on January 4.