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 beneath rising stress to commercialize as they attain later phases of fundraising. They’re nonetheless years away from deploying driverless robotaxis on bustling city roads at scale, however less complicated eventualities comparable to shuttle buses and long-haul vehicles have introduced them with alternatives.
In 2020, Pony established a separate trucking division, which it branded PonyTron. Earlier this 12 months, it shaped a trucking three way partnership with Sinotrans, a freight forwarding firm beneath the Chinese language state-owned conglomerate China Retailers Group.
Pony filed the grievance with a courtroom 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 informed TechCrunch.
Qingtian mentioned in a assertion that it has but to obtain any allegation doc and is verifying info relating to the case.
“Qingtian Truck has at all times adhered to the regulation, practiced enterprise ethics, and insisted on unbiased R&D and innovation. We’ve not infringed upon any third-party commerce secret,” the corporate mentioned.
IP dispute will not be unusual within the billion-dollar autonomous driving business that is dependent upon 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 12 months.
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 12 months 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 advised that workers had been disgruntled about Pony’s resolution to merge the R&D items of its trucking and passenger automotive companies, however Pony reasoned that the restructuring would result in extra environment friendly outcomes.