Elon Musk Acknowledges Xpeng Stole Old Version of Autopilot Source Code

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk has publicly acknowledged Chinese electric vehicle (EV) maker Xpeng has a copy of the company’s Autopilot source code—but an old version to boot.

Last year, Guangzhi Cao, a former Tesla engineer at Tesla, admitted in a court filing he uploaded Autopilot source code (over 300,000 files and directories) to his Apple iCloud account back in 2018. Tesla eventually sued Cao, alleging the engineer then gave the stolen autonomous trade secrets to EV startup Xiaopeng Motors (Xpeng), which has the backing from Chinese tech company Alibaba.

On Friday, Musk replied to Tasha Keeney from ARK Invest, related to a story about Xpeng’s plans to use LiDAR for its autonomous approach.

“They have an old version of our software & don’t have our [neural network] inference computer,” replied Musk.

“To be clear, this was just an XPeng problem. Other companies in China have not done this,” added Musk.

When Musk was asked straight up if Xpeng actually has a copy of Autopilot source code, the Tesla CEO replied the Chinese company also “stole Apple’s code too,” and linked to a Washington Post story on the matter.

The Tesla CEO also clapped back when someone said he was a LiDAR hater. “This is a misperception. SpaceX developed & continues to use lidar for Dragon docking with @Space_Station,” said Musk. “Just pointless [in my opinion] for self-driving. If you’re going to do active photon generation, use an occlusion penetrating wavelength, like precision radar at ~4mm.”

Aside from Xpeng copying Tesla’s user interface, the company also shamelessly copied the Tesla website as well earlier this year. The Chinese company’s autonomous website looks just like Tesla Autopilot pages.

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Xpeng describes its XPILOT 3.0 system enables “autonomous driving tailored for China’s road conditions. Easy to drive. Easy to park.”

“The new XPILOT 3.0 advanced driver assistance will deliver upgraded driving experience, including navigation-guided pilot for highways and memory parking for car parks. Experience future driving, today,” says the Chinese company’s website.

One thing is for sure, as Musk emphasized, the old version of Autopilot Xpeng has will not compete with Tesla’s new version of Autopilot, which is a complete re-write, currently available for beta testers in the United States.