Tesla and Apple have previously engaged in a sort of cold war over next-gen car technologies. However, Elon Musk’s automotive company is now seeking help from Apple — to catch a suspected thief.
The issue involves a lawsuit put forward by Tesla against a former employee, who jumped ship to a Chinese rival while in possession of Tesla secrets. Apple has faced a similar problem in the past.
Ex-employee Guangzhi Cao has admitted to stealing source code from Tesla’s Autopilot. He then joined Chinese company Xpeng. However, his lawyers claim he has not passed along the information.
The lawsuit from Tesla notes that the company is seeking assistance from Apple. Specifically, it wants access to Cao’s iCloud account, where he has admitted to storing data from Tesla.
Last year, Apple faced its own challenges with a former employee allegedly jumping ship to a Chinese rival. In that instance, the employee in question downloaded blueprints for Apple’s self-driving car circuit board. He was arrested at the airport.
Apple vs. Tesla: The rivals
As innovative, cool tech companies working on self-driving car projects Apple and Tesla are rivals.
Both companies frequently poach experts from each other. This is particularly true when it comes to people jumping from Tesla to Apple. In December, Apple hired away Andrew Kim, a senior designer at Tesla. It has also hired Tesla’s VP of Vehicle Programs and, most recently, hiring Tesla’s VP of Engineering.
Elon Musk has disparagingly referred to Apple as a “Tesla graveyard.” He has also had some harsh words for Steve Jobs. In a GQ interview, Musk said that, “[T]he one time I met Steve Jobs, he was kind of a jerk.” However, then he pulled back on the comments, saying that, “The last thing I need is to generate animosity, you know. It just is not helpful.”
Nonetheless, at times there have been rumors that Apple would acquire Tesla. Apple reportedly tried to buy the company for way over the odds in 2013 — although this deal never materialized.
Now that Tesla is seeking out Apple’s help, it will be interesting to see what happens. Apple has been incredibly pro-privacy, even when this means technically supporting suspected criminals. This even led to a highly publicized standoff with the FBI.
Still, given its own past problems with IP theft, maybe Apple will have a bit of sympathy for Musk’s carmaker.