Ex-Apple employee charged with stealing driverless car secrets for Chinese firm

Apple car

Family members are also barred from learning about the auto project. Zhang was developing hardware and software to be used in autonomous vehicles. Elon Musk and Tesla were at their peak popularity at the time and such news sold well.

Apple shared their evidence with the FBI, and, as such, the bureau has leveled charges against Zhang.

Now, matters related to the Apple Car have taken another interesting turn.

Xiaolang Zhang was in custody for stealing trade secrets from the Apple project, according to a copy of the criminal complaint posted online. Take a look below for more details.

During the weekend, the former Apple engineer was arrested by USA authorities at San Jose International Airport while preparing to board a flight to China and charged with stealing proprietary information related to Apple's self-driving auto project.


But Apple may have large numbers of employees working on the project because the process of making a computer "see" the world around it for a self-driving auto can be applied to other products, said Sertac Karaman, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-founder of a self-driving shuttle startup called Optimus Ride.

Zhang was hired in 2015 to work on Apple's self-driving auto project designing and testing circuit boards that would analyze sensor data. Fewer people, about 2,700 "core employees", have access to the project's databases. During the meeting, he also told a supervisor that he was joining Chinese electric vehicle startup XMotors. In China, he would work for Xiaopeng Motors, a Chinese company with offices in Silicon Valley that also focuses on driverless vehicles.

Zhang's role as a hardware engineer at Apple required him to test circuit boards for analyzing sensor data. After he informed his supervisor of the decision to leave Apple, the latter proceeded to call Apple's security officials.

That analysis revealed that Zhang's network activity "increased exponentially" near the time he made a decision to leave the company, compared to the two years prior. The company's security team reviewed Zhang's company iPhone and laptop and discovered massive download activities between March and April, including confidential company data. It was later revealed that at least 60% of all the downloaded data was questionable.

In April, he left on paternity leave and visited China to be with his family. Zhang had not only taken documents from the company, some of which he AirDropped from his phone to his wife's laptop, but he also was brazen enough to come in on a Saturday night and steal a box of hardware that included circuit boards and a Linux server. Apple hasn't said how or if it will eventually release its technology to consumers. Zhang appeared in court Monday, with a Mandarin translator present; he did not enter a plea.

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