An Apple employee who tried to head for China with stolen secrets about Apple’s self-driving car was sentenced to four months in prison and a $147,000 fine.
He’s one of two people caught attempting industrial espionage on technical details of the upcoming autonomous vehicle.
Apple car secrets the subject of industrial espionage
Numerous leaks indicate that Apple’s Project Titan to develop an electric vehicle with self-driving capabilities has been going for about a decade. The latest unconfirmed report says the launch will be in 2028.
Back in 2018, Xiaolang Zhang was a Hardware Systems Engineer on the project when he took paternity leave in April of that year after the birth of his child. During this time, he travelled to China. When he returned to Cupertino, he said that he planned to resign to join Xiaopeng Motors (AKA XPeng Motors), a Chinese car-maker.
Apple security checks showed that the engineer visited Apple’s campus while on leave where he downloaded important files, including schematics for a circuit board intended for a self-driving car. Zhang was then arrested by the FBI after going through the security gates at San Jose airport on the way to China.
He plead guilty to the charges in 2022 in exchange for a lighter sentence. This week, he learned his sentence: a $146,984 fine, 120 days in prison and three years of probation.
If this sounds familiar, the FBI arrested a second Apple employee, Jizhong Chen, for also trying to leave for China with secret Apple car details.