Tesla Model S
Tesla Reuters

Tesla has sued Sterling Anderson, the former director of its Autopilot system for allegedly trying to recruit Tesla engineers for his new venture along with the ex-head of Google's self-driving program, Chris Urmson, while still working at the electric car company.

The California-based company claimed that Anderson not only tried to poach 12 Tesla engineers to a new self-driving venture, but also transferred hundreds of gigabytes of "confidential and proprietary information" to his personal hard drives. He has been accused of altering time-stamps on files on his company-issued laptop and erasing others to conceal data theft attempts.

The complaint filed at the California Superior Court, claimed that Anderson's attempts to team with Urmson by using these tactics was a clear violation of the non-solicitation agreement signed with Tesla.

Urmson, who was involved with the self-driving project of Alphabet for seven-and-a-half years, looked to employ these engineers along with Anderson to help their start-up Aurora Innovations develop technology similar to Tesla's, according to the filing. Tesla cites their motive as the "get-rich-quick environment" syndrome where a start-up like Aurora would look to get funded or even completely bought by a major automobile company.

Aurora has denied any such intentions and called the lawsuit "a startling paranoia".

"This abuse of the legal system is a malicious attempt to stifle a competitor and destroy personal reputations. Aurora looks forward to disproving these false allegations in court and to building a successful self-driving business," the company said in a statement.

This may be one of the first official complaints made regarding poaching of engineers, but since the self-driving race started, many engineers from Tesla have spoken of being offered lucrative positions in rival companies. Likewise, companies like Apple have also claimed that Tesla has poached on its engineers for their self-driving division.