A former Apple engineer stole secrets about the company’s secret self-driving car project. Xiaolang Zhang was arrested at a San Jose airport on his way to China and he now faces up to 10 years in prison if he is found guilty.
According to a report by Venture Beat via Business Insider, Zhang was a hardware engineer for Apple and had access to the company’s secret self-driving car project. There have been numerous rumor reports about Apple’s autonomous cars project and Zhang worked on the project for several years.
Zhang reportedly took paternity leave and downloaded the secret files, which he told prosecutors he put on his wife’s laptop.
Apple’s security team reviewed Zhang’s company-issued work devices and discovered that he had downloaded confidential data he had access at an alarming rate.
Security footage showed that Zhang had returned to the tech company’s offices during his paternity leave and taken things from Apple’s labs.
Zhang reportedly confessed to stealing the secret documents. He booked a last-minute flight to China to reportedly work for Xiaopeng Motors or XMotors, which builds electric cars.
The report does not detail, Zhang’s motive for leaving Apple for a start-up in China.
Apple released a statement about the former engineer’ arrests and implies that others may have been involved.
Reflecting on this now…. the most amazing fact in this story is that this Apple employee was able to AirDrop 40gb worth of stuff.— Sean O'Kane (@sokane1) July 14, 2018
Sometimes I can't get my laptop to find my phone, or vice versa, on AirDrop for like 15 minuteshttps://t.co/p9Ymq35RWl
“Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told Bloomberg. “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.”
Zhang’s arraignment is set for later this month and he has not yet entered a plea.
According to Reuters, Zhang’s arrest has shed some light on Apple’s secret self-driving car project. 5,000 employees were given access to information about the program, while 2,700 had access to the top-secret data.
It is unclear what access level of clearance the former employee had prior to his arrest.
The Reuters report writes that Zhang was shown a “proprietary chip” by his co-workers and designed circuit boards to analyze sensor data, this suggests the iPhone making company is working on a chip device for autonomous vehicle systems
Apple is also reportedly working on a sensor fusion, which is critical for self-driving cars to be able to track stationary and moving objects
The race to commercialize the world’s first self-driving car business involves Google, Uber, Apple and other players.
Apple’s efforts in the autonomous driving business is reportedly named “Project Titan.”