A former Apple engineer was arrested on charges of stealing driverless car secrets for a Chinese startup after he passed through the security checkpoint at San Jose International Airport in the US to board a flight to China.
Zhang Xiaolang was accused by US prosecutors of downloading files containing proprietary information as he prepared to leave the iPhone maker in April and start work for Guangzhou-based Xiaopeng Motors, according to a criminal complaint in a federal court in San Jose in California.
A hardware engineer for Apple’s autonomous vehicle development team, Mr Zhang was granted access to confidential company databases, according to the complaint. After he took paternity leave he told Apple in April he was moving back to China to work at XMotors. Apple grew more suspicious after seeing his increased network activity and visits to the office before he resigned, according to the complaint.
Mr Zhang admitted to the FBI he downloaded Apple driverless technology files to his wife’s laptop to have continued access to them, according to the complaint. He was arrested on July 7.
XMotors has always strictly abided by the laws of China and the US and takes protection of intellectual property rights seriously, Isabel Jiang, an XMotors spokeswoman, said. “There is no indication that he has ever communicated any sensitive information from Apple to XMotors,” Ms Jiang said of Mr Zhang. When notified in late June that US authorities were investigating Zhang, his computer and office equipment was secured and he was denied access to his work, she said. He was subsequently fired.
In 2015, Apple executives approved a plan to build a self-driving, electric vehicle to take on Tesla and the Detroit auto industry.