Former Apple engineer pleads guilty to stealing self-driving vehicle secrets, faces decade...

midian182

Posts: 8,330   +103
Staff member
Recap: You might remember the name Xiaolang Zhang from a few years ago. He's the former Apple engineer charged with stealing trade secrets during his time at the company's self-driving car division between 2015 and 2018. After originally denying the claims, Zhang has now pleaded guilty to the charges and faces ten years in prison for his crimes.

Back in 2018, Federal agents stopped Zhang at San Jose International Airport as he departed for Beijing using a ticket bought at the "last second." He was accused of transferring 24GB of Apple's data onto his wife's laptop via AirDrop. The files included a 25-page document containing engineering schematics of a circuit board, along with technical manuals and PDFs relating to the company's self-driving vehicle prototype.

Zhang was also caught on camera removing hardware from Apple's autonomous vehicle development lab. It was later identified as circuit boards and a Linux server.

Zhang had told his Apple bosses in 2018 that he was leaving the firm and moving to China to work for Chinese EV startup Guangzhou Xiaopeng Motors Technology, aka Xpeng. He revealed his plans after returning from paternity leave, during which time he traveled to China.

CNBC writes that Zhang has now pleaded guilty to the single theft of trade secrets count in San Jose federal court. The felony charge carries a maximum of up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His sentencing is due to take place in November.

This isn't the only case of an Apple employee stealing trade secrets related to its autonomous car project. Jizhong Chen was accused of the same crime in 2019. He was also planning to travel to China and is represented by the same lawyer used by Zhang. A date for that trial has not been set.

Apple's self-driving car ambitions have been around since 2014 when Tim Cook reportedly approved project Titan. At one point, it appeared as if Apple had given up on the car project and was instead focusing solely on developing autonomous vehicle software for other automakers, but a report from last year claims Apple's EV could arrive as soon as 2025.

Image courtesy of Vanarama

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VitalyT

Posts: 6,409   +7,225
Apple's EV will likely be on the roads by the time he gets out
Or Apple will be on the block. Bigger empires have fallen. When things are wrong within, it's just a matter of time.

Anyway, that design is absurd. An EV does not need a front mesh. Designers at Apple didn't get the memo.
 

MasterFig

Posts: 11   +11
Or Apple will be on the block. Bigger empires have fallen. When things are wrong within, it's just a matter of time.

Anyway, that design is absurd. An EV does not need a front mesh. Designers at Apple didn't get the memo.
Sometimes things are added for styling and anesthetics, not function. Having said that, the rest of the rendering of the car shown in this article looks stupid in my opinion.
 

psycros

Posts: 4,462   +6,655
About 32%. That's the percentage of Chinese-born tech workers in America who've either been investigated or are under investigation for espionage. In 2015 Chinese nationals were stopped while trying to exit the country with stolen IP at least three times every month. Its now a minimum of five times a month. And the tech industry just keeps lobbying for more H1B visas while completely ignoring qualified candidates raised and educated at home.
 

Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 849   +1,363
Anyway, that design is absurd. An EV does not need a front mesh. Designers at Apple didn't get the memo.
Sometimes things are added for styling and anesthetics, not function. Having said that, the rest of the rendering of the car shown in this article looks stupid in my opinion.
Just checked and that is not an Apple car. Vanarama is the source of that design, it's based on interpreting Apple's patents:
 

Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 849   +1,363
And the tech industry just keeps lobbying for more H1B visas while completely ignoring qualified candidates raised and educated at home.
Yikes, I didn't realize how many there were. The numbers are around 40-60% according to the source below. However that's foreign born workers, not H-1B visa workers. I'm sure most with visas are interested in nationalizing and raising their kids to fulfill your interest in born and raised future tech workers. https://www.newsweek.com/h-1b-visa-...ore-half-silicon-valleys-tech-industry-784272

That said, there is a shortage of tech workers in the US. I can easily get a job anywhere as a software developer. Only a few years ago I heard that there was a 3:1 job posting to applicant ratio for developers in the US. So I'm not sure that these companies are ignoring local talent; I think what's more likely is not enough people are able to learn the tools of the trade due to needing a tech-oriented mindset or interested in the field to satisfy the demand for work.
 

MyIOnU

Posts: 128   +291
Well, is that what the CCP has been doing all the time? They are sending their people to around the world either to learn or steal secret technology.
 

trparky

Posts: 1,146   +1,305
When are we going to get through our heads that one should NEVER trust China? They've not innovated... ever. Their entire game plan throughout history has been to either conquer or steal. They've shown repeatedly that they have no f**ks to give when it comes to stealing intellectual property.