Pony.ai, a Chinese language autonomous car firm valued at $8.5 billion as of late, has sued two former workers over alleged commerce secret infringement.
The lawsuit is arriving months after Frank (Zhenhao) Pan and Youhan Solar, two former technical leaders at Pony’s autonomous trucking enterprise within the U.S., resigned to begin a competitor known as Qingtian Truck.
China’s autonomous driving upstarts are below rising stress to commercialize as they attain later levels of fundraising. They’re nonetheless years away from deploying driverless robotaxis on bustling city roads at scale, however easier eventualities equivalent to shuttle buses and long-haul vehicles have offered them with alternatives.
In 2020, Pony established a separate trucking division, which it branded PonyTron. Earlier this yr, it fashioned a trucking three way partnership with Sinotrans, a freight forwarding firm below the Chinese language state-owned conglomerate China Retailers Group.
Pony filed the grievance with a court docket in Beijing and is in search of damages of 60 million yuan ($8.9 million) from Qingtian. The Beijing Mental Property Court docket has accepted the case, Pony advised TechCrunch.
Qingtian stated in a assertion that it has but to obtain any allegation doc and is verifying data concerning the case.
“Qingtian Truck has at all times adhered to the legislation, practiced enterprise ethics, and insisted on impartial R&D and innovation. We’ve not infringed upon any third-party commerce secret,” the corporate stated.
IP dispute just isn’t unusual within the billion-dollar autonomous driving trade that will depend on technological breakthroughs. Elon Musk for a very long time was at loggerheads with Xpeng, Tesla’s Chinese language competitor. In 2019, Tesla filed a lawsuit in opposition to a former worker alleging that he had stolen commerce secrets and techniques associated to the agency’s Autopilot driver help function and introduced them to Xpeng. The case was dropped final yr.
Pan, former chief expertise officer for Pony’s trucking enterprise, and Solar, who beforehand led planning and management for the corporate’s trucking enterprise within the U.S., had been among the many senior workers who’ve left Pony over the previous yr to arrange their very own store.
Solar Haowen, former head of planning and management for Pony’s autonomous driving in China, additionally left to work on a brand new autonomous trucking enterprise.
TechCrunch’s sources and different media experiences instructed that workers had been disgruntled about Pony’s resolution to merge the R&D items of its trucking and passenger automobile companies, however Pony reasoned that the restructuring would result in extra environment friendly outcomes.