What happened: On Wednesday, Tesla filed two lawsuits in California courts. One accuses Guangzhi Cao, a former member of Tesla’s Autopilot 40-member team, of sharing source code for its driving assistant feature with Chinese electric vehicle maker Xiaopeng Motors (XPeng). The company claims that Cao moved 300,000 files and directories related to Autopilot, some of which were copies of Autopilot-related source code. He then abruptly announced he was moving to a job at XPeng on Jan. 3 and tried to delete his browser history. XPeng responded by saying that it “was not aware of any alleged misconduct by Mr. Cao.”
Why it’s important: Experts and media reports found that XPeng’s electric SUV G3, which was released in December 2018, oddly similar to Tesla’s Model X. Many of the features were the same, but the price tag was much lower. As Tesla is trying to enter the biggest automobile market in the world, even building a Gigafactory in Shanghai, competition from Chinese manufacturers can be detrimental to its success. In the past, high import taxes prevented Elon Musk’s ambitions from spreading through China. By cutting such costs, it hopes for a competitive price tag in the Chinese market, in which case, proprietary technology will be crucial to its edge.