Tesla Withdraws Lawsuit Against Former Autopilot Boss, Gets $100K Settlement

A lawsuit over Tesla Autopilot tech fizzled out, resulting in a small settlement for the carmaker.

Tesla has withdrawn the lawsuit it filed in January against Sterling Anderson, the former head of its Autopilot team, and the company he founded with former Google self-driving car executive Chris Urmson.

That company, Aurora Innovation, will pay Tesla a $100,000 settlement, according to The Verge. Tesla will also be allowed to hire an independent auditor to search Aurora for stolen confidential information, which will be destroyed or returned to the carmaker. 

In the suit, Tesla alleged Anderson downloaded confidential files to his personal hard drives while still an employee, and that Anderson and Urmson conspired to poach employees from Tesla for their company. Tesla also accused Anderson and Urmson of destroying evidence to cover their tracks.

Aurora will hire its own auditor to look for any Tesla intellectual property, and will provide that material to Tesla if found. In a Medium post, Anderson indicated the $100,000 settlement is meant to cover the cost of Tesla’s auditor. Anderson will also continue to abide by an existing non-solicitation agreement with Tesla, and promised not to solicit employees or contractors to leave the company for one year.

In a statement, Aurora said “no Tesla confidential information exists on our personal computers or company systems,” and that there is “no evidence” that anyone at Aurora had access to confidential materials from Tesla. The company also said it had “agreed to reimburse the cost of a future audit” on intellectual property within its systems.

A Tesla statement noted that “Mr. Anderson’s 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 company also noted that a process was in place to “allow Tesla to recover all of the proprietary information that was taken from the company,” and referenced future audits.

The circumstances of this lawsuit—a former employee of an established automotive tech player alleging stealing computer files and going off to found a startup—appear similar to the ongoing legal battle between Waymo and Uber. But while that fight has continued for months with no end in sight, the spat between Tesla and Aurora seems to have fizzled out rather quickly.