Toyota-backed robotic unicorn Pony.ai sues former employees over trade secrets – Meczyki.Net

Pony.AI, a Chinese autonomous vehicle company recently valued at $8.5 billion, has sued two former employees over alleged trade secret violations.

The lawsuit comes months after Frank (Zhenhao) Pan and Yuhan Sun, two former tech leaders from Pony’s autonomous trucking business in America, resigned to start a competitor called Qingtian Trucks.

Commercialization pressure is mounting on China’s autonomous driving upstarts as they reach the later stages of fundraising. They are still far from deploying driverless robotaxis on large-scale urban roads, but simpler scenarios such as shuttle buses and long-distance trucks have provided them with opportunities.

In 2020, Pony established a separate trucking division, which it branded Ponytron, Earlier this year, it was formed A trucking joint venture with SinotransA freight forwarding company under the Chinese state-owned conglomerate China Merchant Group.

Pony filed a complaint in a Beijing court and sought 60 million yuan ($8.9 million) in damages from Qingtian. Pony told Meczyki.Net that the Beijing Intellectual Property Court has accepted the case.

Qingtian said Statement That he has not yet received any charge document and is verifying the information related to the case.

“Qingtian Trucks has always abided by the law, practiced business ethics, and insisted on independent R&D and innovation. We have not infringed on any third party trade secrets,” the company said.

IP disputes are not uncommon Billion The autonomous driving industry that depends on technological breakthroughs. Elon Musk has long been at loggerheads with Tesla’s Chinese competitor Xpeng. In 2019, Tesla filed a lawsuit against a former employee alleging that he stole trade secrets related to the firm’s Autopilot driver assistance facility and brought them to Xpeng. court case was dropped last year,

Pan, the former chief technology officer for Pony’s trucking business, and Sun, who previously headed planning and control for the company’s trucking business in the US, were among the senior employees who took the past year to set up their shop. I left the pony.

Sun Hawen, the former head of planning and control for Pony’s autonomous driving in China, also left to work on a new autonomous trucking venture.

Meczyki.Net sources and other media reports suggested that employees were dissatisfied with Pony’s decision to merge the R&D units of its trucking and passenger car businesses, but Pony argued that the restructuring would yield more efficient results.