Tesla Inc. is suing a former employee who allegedly retained company secrets illegally. These secrets were reportedly based on its AI supercomputer project, which he copied on his personal devices. The ex-thermal engineer, Alexander Yatskov was appointed to work specifically on Project Dojo. The company claimed that he submitted a ‘dummy’ laptop to conceal his actions following a confrontation.
Elon Musk has been teasing Project Dojo since 2019, which revolves around the development of a supercomputer. This project is fed by the data from Tesla users, aiming to help the company solve complex issues based on engineering such as autonomous driving. The billionaire CEO unveiled the DJ1 chip tile at Tesla’s AI Day, This chip is essentially a component used to build these supercomputer system. Additionally, he unveiled a whitepaper, outlining standards in 2021, but did not disclose any further details about the Dojo supercomputer.
Yatskov was hired in January this year, to assist on the designing of the cooling systems of the supercomputer. According to Tesla, he violated a non-disclosure agreement by retaining company’s secret information. The EV company stated that the ex-employee had lied regarding his work history and expertise on his CV. Moreover, he was apparently ‘repeatedly unable’ to fulfil the tasks assigned to him, revealing in a complaint filed with the US District Court on May 6.
What else did the complaint reveal?
It revealed how Yatskov had ‘admitted’ to have indeed retained information regarding the project to his personal computer. However, he had attempted to make the laptop look like it only accessed ‘inoffensive’ data, ultimately resigning in May. Apparently, he was ‘creating Tesla documents’ comprising sensitive data on Dojo, sharing it on his own email, according to the lawsuit. It mentioned how the Dojo team spent ‘thousands of hours of work’ developing the company’s trade secrets, which were never shared outside Tesla.
The EV giant specified the secrets to be very valuable, possibly proving to be the same for its competitors. The access to these would allow engineers at other companies to possibly reverse engineer Tesla’s Trade Secrets, creating a ‘similar supercomputer thermal systems.’ This could be done in only partly the time taken by Tesla, with just a fraction of the money spent by the EV company in the first place. Yatskov informed Bloomberg on a call that he unaware all this while of the lawsuit, and later declined to comment.