Tesla settles lawsuit against ex-Autopilot lead’s self-driving startup Aurora
Tesla has settled a lawsuit it filed against Sterling Anderson, a former employee and past director of Autopilot. Anderson was a key leader of Teslas semi-automated highway driving features, prior to leaving the company to found his own self-driving startup, Aurora, along with former Google self-driving car project CTO Chris Urmson.
The settlement clears Aurora and Anderson of wrongdoing, and includes a one-time reimbursement payment of $100,000 from the startup to Tesla. Tesla had accused Aurora and Anderson of poaching Tesla employees for the new venture, and the settlement also includes a provision whereby Aurora agreed not to hire anyone away from Tesla, either full-time employees or contractors, until at least next February.
Tesla will also be conducting an audit of Aurora devices and material, run by a neutral third-party, to ensure no Tesla confidential info resides on Aurora-related devices and accounts. The EV maker also reserves the right to perform a second audit, though that expires after next February, as does the non-poaching clause.
Thisis actually a lot of what Tesla was looking for from an ultimate ruling in the case, per their original filing against Anderson, Aurora and Urmson.Tesla provided, through a spokesperson, the following statement to TechCrunch regarding the settlement:
Teslas lawsuit against Mr. Anderson, Mr. Urmson, and Aurora has been settled. Under the settlement, Mr. Andersons contractual obligations to Tesla will remain in place and will also be extended to Aurora, with additional specific protections being added to ensure there are no further violations. The settlement also establishes a process to allow Tesla to recover all of the proprietary information that was taken from the company, and it provides for Auroras computer systems to be subject to ongoing audits to monitor for any improper retention or use of Teslas property. Finally, $100,000 was paid to Tesla.
Sterling Anderson provided TechCrunch with this short emailed statement, but also wrote up his thoughts on what this means for his company and self-driving tech in general on Medium:
We started Aurora to accelerate the industry. Frivolous lawsuits only slow it down. Today, less than three months after filing (and before we were permitted to file a response) Tesla has withdrawn their claims, without damages, without attorneys fees, and without any finding of wrongdoing. We have even agreed to reimburse the cost of a future audit to demonstrate the integrity of Auroras intellectual property.