Apple Car Concept
Image Courtesy of MacRumors
  • A former Apple employee was arrested for stealing the company’s trade secrets on self-driving cars.
  • Xiaolang Zhang stole a 25-page blueprint for a self-driving car’s circuit board and downloaded it for personal access even after leaving the company.
  • Zhang has also been accused of stealing hardware and downloading files for private access.

With the self-driving car industry developing at a rapid pace, Apple found itself in the middle of a data theft incident. One of Apple’s ex-employees Xiaolang Zhang was charged with stealing blueprints of a self-driving car’s circuit board, a computer server and hardware circuit boards from Apple’s self-driving car lab in Cupertino.

Rumors suggest that the company is testing dozens of driver-less vehicles currently, but there have been no reliable leaks so far that reveal any crucial details. Google is also working on its self-driving cars and is one of the only companies to reveal details on its Waymo project.

Zhang was arrested by US authorities and has admitted to his crimes. He revealed that he stole the files to continue having access to them after leaving the company. He intended to make use of the knowledge and apply at Apple again in a new position.

Authorities found out that Zhang downloaded manuals to his wife’s computer as well. The theft took place during Zhang’s paternity leave when he was supposed to be in China. Zhang was responsible for testing and designing circuit boards that analyzed sensor data at Apple. The work involved handling top secret information about self-driving automobile technology.

He requested a paternity leave from the company and revealed that he would be joining Chinese startup Xiaopeng Motors. However, Zhang did not head back to China and decided to stay back and steal hardware and blueprints from Apple instead. A rise in network activities at the HQ was spotted by the supervisor, which led to Zhang being caught by US authorities.

An Apple spokesperson revealed today “Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously. 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.

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