Ex-Apple Worker Charged With Stealing Self-Driving Tech Secrets


A former Apple employee has been charged with stealing trade secrets.

According to Reuters, U.S. authorities charged Xiaolang Zhang, accusing him of downloading a blueprint related to a self-driving car before attempting to flee the country for China, where he was going to work for a self-driving startup.

Authorities arrested Zhang on July 7 at the San Jose airport after he went through a security checkpoint.

“We’re working with authorities on this matter and will do everything possible to make sure this individual and any other individuals involved are held accountable for their actions,” Apple said in a statement.

Tamara Crepet, a lawyer provisionally appointed to represent Zhang, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The FBI also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The criminal complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, said Zhang was hired by Apple to develop software and hardware for the company’s autonomous vehicle project, where his duties included designing and testing circuit boards to analyze sensor data.

In April, Zhang took paternity leave and traveled with his family to China. When he came back, he told his supervisor he was resigning and moving back to China to accept a job at Xiaopeng Motors, an intelligent electric vehicle company with offices in Silicon Valley.

Zhang’s supervisor called Apple security officials, who discovered that Zhang had run extensive searches of secret databases and had come on to Apple’s campus when he was supposed to be on paternity leave. During that visit, he allegedly took circuit boards and a computer server from a self-driving car hardware lab. His Apple co-workers also showed him a “proprietary chip.”

Zhang also allegedly downloaded data to his personal laptop, including a 25-page secret blueprint of a circuit board for a self-driving car.


Featured PYMNTS Study:

More than 63 percent of merchant service providers (MSPs) want to overhaul their core payment processing systems so they can up their value-added services (VAS) game. It’s tough, though, since many of these systems date back to the pre-digital era. In the January 2020 Optimizing Merchant Services Playbook, PYMNTS unpacks what 200 MSPs say is key to delivering the VAS agenda that is critical to their success.