Former Apple Engineer Xiaolang Zhang Caught Fleeing Country After Stealing Secrets

Apple's had another leak and this time it's personal

Elon Musk and Tesla were at their peak popularity at the time and such news sold well. We also don't know if Apple's IP was successfully transferred to a third party by Mr. Zhang before his arrest.

Now, matters related to the Apple Car have taken another interesting turn.

The criminal complaint against Zhang includes an interesting tidbit: Apple has as many as 5,000 people involved in the self-driving vehicle project. Take a look below for more details.

American prosecutors have accused a former Apple engineer named Xiaolang Zhang of stealing intellectual property and trade secrets pertaining to autonomous cars on behalf of a Chinese start-up.

More significantly, the case has revealed some new information on the current status of Apple's self-driving vehicle project.

According to the complaint, Zhang was shown a "proprietary chip" by employees and was working on circuit boards that could have been part of a sensor fusion project, which involves using multiple sensors to make the cars more accurate in their decisions while in self-driving mode.

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A hardware engineer for Apple's autonomous vehicle development team, Zhang was granted access to confidential company databases, according to the complaint.

But aside from filing a mandatory government training plan for the permitted Lexus model RX450h vehicles that outlined how drivers could take back manual control of the auto, Apple has given few clues which aspects of the technology it's working on. Zhang had just returned to the company after taking paternity leave when he informed his supervisor on April 30 that he would be resigning, according to the complaint.

Apple has been pretty secretive about its autonomous driving program but the company's work nearly landed in the hands of Xiaopeng Motors.

Effective May 5, Zhang was "voluntarily terminated", and according to the complaint, said he is employed by XMotors at its Mountain View, Calif., office.

The majority of Zhang's network activity "consisted of both bulk searches and targeted downloading copious pages of information from the various confidential database applications", according to the complaint. It was later revealed that at least 60% of all the downloaded data was questionable. Additionally, security footage confirmed that he was on company premises on April 28th, which falls into the period of his paternity leave. Though he initially denied being on company property, Zhang, when confronted, admitted he was in Apple's hardware labs and had taken items including two circuit boards and a linux server. Zhang appeared in court on Monday, but he did not enter a plea.

The complaint states Apple first became suspicious of Zhang in late April. Apple has brought criminal charges against Zhang, and he could face up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

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