A former Apple employee has pleaded guilty to stealing the company’s trade secrets in its highly classified self-driving car project.
Zhang Xiaolang was charged on August 22 by Jose in a San Francisco, Calif., court and could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Mr. Zhang was arrested at the San Jose airport in 2018 as he was about to board a plane to China, intending to leave China for a Chinese electric vehicle start-up called Guangzhou Xiaopeng Automotive Technology Works for the company, which is also known as the Alibaba-backed Xpeng Motors.
From December 2015 to May 2018, Mr. Zhang designed and tested circuit boards for the computing team of Apple’s self-driving car project.
In April 2018, he just returned from paternity leave, in order to help his sick mother, he asked for an extension of his visit to China, and also revealed his plans to work at Xiaopeng Motors.
In the weeks before his arrest, Apple security investigated Zhang’s activities and found that he had transferred 24GB of “seriously problematic” data to his wife’s laptop, which included Includes a 25-page document that includes engineering schematics for a circuit board for a self-driving car.
Zhang was also found to have stolen circuit boards and a server from the self-driving car lab, captured by closed-circuit cameras.
While the plea deal has been sealed by the U.S. government, documents show he pleaded guilty to a single count of theft of trade secrets, with sentencing set for Nov. 14.
Apple’s self-driving car setback
The case is one of many setbacks for Apple’s quest to launch a self-driving car since 2014, and it is expected that this The rollout won’t happen until at least 2025.
The setback also includes a second employee charged with theft of trade secrets in 2019. Former employee Chen Jizhong is represented by the same lawyer as Zhang, but a trial date has not yet been set.
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