Pony.ai, a Chinese self-driving car company worth $8.5 billion at the end of the year, sued two former employees for allegedly violating trade secrets.
The lawsuit comes months after Frank (Zhenhao) Pan and Youhan Sun, two former technical leaders of Pony’s self-driving trucking business in the US, resigned to start a competitor called Qingtian. Truck.
China’s emerging self-regulatory firms are under increasing pressure to commercialize as they reach the later stages of fundraising. They are still years away from deploying unmanned robots on busy urban roads on a large scale, but simpler scenarios like shuttle buses and long-distance trucks have brought them to the fore. they chance.
In 2020, Pony established a separate trucking division, branded PonyTron. Earlier this year, it took shape trucking joint venture with Sinotransa freight forwarding company belonging to the state-owned China Merchants Group of China.
Pony has filed a lawsuit with a court in Beijing and is seeking 60 million yuan ($8.9 million) in damages from Qingtian. The Beijing Intellectual Property Court took up the case, Pony told TechCrunch.
Qingtian said in a statement that they have yet to receive any allegation documents and are verifying information regarding the incident.
“Qingtian Truck always follows the law, practices ethical business practices, and emphasizes independent R&D and innovation. The company says we have not violated any third-party trade secrets.
Disputes over intellectual property rights are not uncommon in Billion dollars The autonomous driving industry depends on technological breakthroughs. Elon Musk has had a long relationship with Xpeng, Tesla’s competitor in China. In 2019, Tesla filed a lawsuit against a former employee alleging that he stole trade secrets related to its Autopilot driver-assistance feature and gave them to Xpeng. Case was dropped last year.
Pan, the former chief technology officer of Pony and Sun’s trucking business, who previously led the planning and control of the company’s trucking business in the US, is one of the employees. Senior staff member has left Pony in the past year to start his own store.
Sun Haowen, former head of planning and control for Pony’s autonomous driving in China, remaining to work on a new autonomous trucking joint venture.
Source of TechCrunch and other media reports suggestions that employees were upset about Pony’s decision to merge the R&D divisions of the trucking and passenger car businesses, but Pony reasoned that the restructuring would lead to more efficient results.