| 5:52 PM EST

Tesla Seeks Apple’s Help on Theft of Autonomy Secrets

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Tesla Inc. has asked Apple Inc. to help it prosecute a former employee suspected of stealing secrets about its autonomous car program before leaving to join Chinese rival Xpeng Motors.

Tesla believes that former engineer Guangzhi Cao downloaded thousands of confidential documents before taking a job with Xpeng Motors’ XMors.ai research unit.

Cao acknowledged in a court document that he had copied the source code for Tesla’s Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system. But his lawyer claims Cao did nothing with the material and has attempted to scrub the files from his computers.

Tesla’s early court filings indicate it has served Apple with a subpoena regarding the case. It isn’t clear what materials Tesla wants. Last year a former Apple engineer was arrested on suspicions he downloaded files about Apple’s autonomous car project and was about to take them with him to his new job with Xpeng.

Xpeng has been implicated in other similar situations. The company insists it has never received stolen materials from any of its hires.