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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Ex-Apple Car Engineer Pleads Guilty in Trade Secret Theft

During the probe, Apple discovered that Zhang had stolen 24 GB of highly sensitive data, circuit boards and a server from the company's autonomous vehicle lab

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UNITED STATES: A former Apple car engineer on Monday pleaded guilty for stealing trade secrets from the iPhone maker’s new self-driving car program.

As alleged by US federal prosecutors, Xiaolang Zhang downloaded the plan for a circuit board for Apple’s auto-driving after revealing his intentions to work for Guangzhou Xiaopeng Motors Technology, a Chinese self-driving car startup business, and thereafter, booked an expensive last-minute ticket to China.

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He was detained at San Jose airport after passing the security checkpoint.

Incidentally, Xpeng, the Chinese electric car manufacturer who is incriminated in the case as Zhang joined the startup after leaving Apple in 2018, clarified on its Twitter-like Sina Weibo account on Tuesday that the company had no dispute with Apple over the issue and was completely unaware of Zhang’s intentions.

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Zhang had been an active participant in Apple’s new electric car endeavour and worked in the program under the multi-billion dollar company from 2015 through 2018.

During the probe, Apple discovered that he had transferred nearly 24GB of highly sensitive data to his wife’s laptop via AirDrop and had also nabbed circuit boards and a server from the company’s autonomous vehicle lab.

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Meanwhile, Zhang had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges placed before him, but court documents on Monday reveal he reached a plea deal with prosecutors whereby he pleaded guilty to the theft. The plea deal has been confirmed and the sentencing is due in November.

Zhang’s lawyer testified to the plea deal agreement but refused to comment or answer any further questions. Apple and the US Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Along with Zhang, Jizhong Chen, the other former Apple engineer charged with trade secret theft, has pleaded not guilty. He has a further court hearing set for August 29.

Also Read: Apple Urges Taiwanese Suppliers To Label Products As ‘Made in China’ To Evade Delays Or Rejections By Chinese Customs

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