Tesla is suing a recently hired software engineer the company claims has stolen critical automated software from its WARP Drive ERP system.
Tesla WARP Engine
While most automakers use enterprise software commonly known by third parties such as SAP, Tesla has decided instead to build its own software from scratch.
Tesla Chief Information Officer Jay Vijayan has long been, Who quietly left in January 2016, Is credited with leading the development of the system, which Tesla calls “Warp”.
Vijayan discussed what drove them to internally develop the “Warp” system during an interview with Insight CIO In 2014:
Elon’s vision is to build a vertically integrated organization where information flows seamlessly across departments and where we have a closed feedback loop for our clients. By doing this, we can provide the best possible product, service and comprehensive experience to our customers in the fastest way possible, while also working efficiently as a business to achieve this vision, we had to have a simple and centralized business processes program that could connect all departments and enable the flow of information seamlessly across departments. Once again, we have not been able to find a single program on the market that fulfills this need.
Since then, Elon Musk has pushed his companies to develop more new enterprise engineering systems for use across his various companies.
For example, we previously reported Tesla and SpaceX share some dedicated software platforms that have been developed for materials research.
WARP includes a lot of important backend software that automates many of the processes for Tesla from purchasing to manufacturing to inventory.
Someone tries to steal the Tesla program
In a new case filed in the Northern District Court in California, Tesla alleges that a recently appointed software engineer, Alex Khatilov, has stolen his WARP Drive software.
Tesla writes in the suit:
“Tesla hired a defendant as a software automation engineer on December 28, 2020. Within three days, he began stealing thousands of top-secret program files from Tesla’s secure internal network, transferring them to his personal Dropbox cloud storage account, which Tesla does not have access to or Vision. Files consist of proprietary code “scripts” that Tesla has spent years of engineering time to create. These scripts, when implemented, automate a wide range of functions throughout Tesla’s business. Only a select few Tesla employees have access to these files As a member of that group, the defendant took advantage of this access to the downloaded files that had nothing to do with his job. “
The car makers seem to have strong evidence that Khatilov inappropriately downloaded the scripts.
The Infosec team at Tesla gained access to the engineer’s Dropbox account where they found the files that did not work there:
Tesla’s Information Security Officers discovered the defendant’s unauthorized download on January 6, 2021, and encountered the defendant that day and interviewed him. During this interview, he repeatedly claimed to have transmitted only a couple of personal administrative documents. After he was asked, Tesla investigators granted access to view his Dropbox account, where they discovered that the defendant’s allegations were outright lies: Tesla investigators found thousands and thousands of secret Tesla computer texts in his Dropbox. Then the defendant claimed that he had somehow “forgotten” the thousands of other files he had stolen (almost certainly another lie). Worse, it became clear that the defendant had brazenly attempted to destroy the evidence by hurriedly deleting the Dropbox client and other files during the start of the interview when the investigators were trying to access his computer remotely.
Tesla employs a team of quality assurance engineers who help define the work tasks to be automated based on input from Tesla’s business leaders. Engineers write computer scripts in Python (a computer programming language) to automate those tasks, and test automated processes to ensure they are working properly. These scripts are unique to Tesla and run on WARP Drive, the backend for most of Tesla’s business.
The development of this complex system is costly and time consuming. Tesla has spent nearly 200 years working on developing quality assurance texts – the cumulative hours spent by the Quality Assurance Engineering team over the past twelve years. Engineers’ work is also directed by Tesla’s business leaders, who identify tasks that need automation – another big and valuable investment in their time.
Tesla is looking for damages to be determined at trial and issuing an injunction to prevent the defendant from sharing any information with other parties.
Here is the full complaint submitted to the court:
This isn’t the first time that Tesla has turned to court to protect its trade secrets from former employees who allegedly stole important information.
Tesla Filed a lawsuit against the employees who claim to have stolen the autopilot source code Then she moved to Xpeng, a Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer.
Car maker too Filed a lawsuit against Zoox She is currently involved in a lawsuit with Rivian over similar allegations of IP theft.
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