Former Apple employee charged with theft of autonomous-vehicle trade secrets

The ex-employee's alleged theft included a variety of hardware and software data.

Kyle Hyatt Former news and features editor
Kyle Hyatt (he/him/his) hails originally from the Pacific Northwest, but has long called Los Angeles home. He's had a lifelong obsession with cars and motorcycles (both old and new).
Kyle Hyatt
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The US government has filed charges of theft of trade secrets against a former member of Apple's self-driving car team, according to MacRumors.

The former employee, Xiaolang Zhang, was arrested Saturday in San Jose, California, while attempting to fly to China and was questioned by the FBI regarding the alleged theft of Apple's intellectual property. According to a criminal complaint filed Monday in federal court, Zhang confessed to the theft. Zhang could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to the court filing, Zhang was hired in 2015 to work on Apple's self-driving car project designing and testing circuit boards that would analyze sensor data. In April 2018, he took a period of family leave around the time of the birth of his son, during which he visited China. When he got back, he informed his boss that he was quitting Apple and going to China to work for an autonomous vehicle startup called XMotors.

His supervisor became suspicious and called in Apple's New Product Security Team to investigate any possible wrongdoing, according to the court filing. What Apple allegedly found was pretty severe. Zhang had allegedly taken documents from the company, some of which were AirDropped from his phone to his wife's laptop. He also allegedly took a box of hardware that included circuit boards and a Linux server.

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Correction, July 11 at 6:00 a.m. PT: The entity charging Zhang has been fixed.