While working on the Apple Car, an engineer admitted to stealing trade secrets

Xiaolang Zhang pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets from Apple, where he worked from 2015 to 2018 on a self-driving vehicle project. When he left Apple, he informed his boss that he would be working for Guangzhou Xiaopeng Motors Technology, a Chinese EV company also known as Xpeng.

During an inquiry, which you can read about here, Apple discovered that he had transmitted around 24GB of “very troublesome” material to his wife’s laptop through AirDrop, as well as circuit boards and a server from the company’s autonomous car lab.

The terms of Zhang’s plea agreement are not public, but according to a court document, Zhang pled guilty to the single count of theft of trade secrets listed in his indictment. On November 14th, a session to decide his sentence is planned. Theft of trade secrets carries a maximum prison sentence of ten years in the United States, and Zhang could face a fine of up to a quarter-million dollars.

He isn’t the only one accused of stealing Apple’s automotive trade secrets or attempting to transfer sensitive materials to Xpeng. Another former Apple employee was accused in 2019 of attempting to smuggle Apple’s automobile project’s manuals, schematics, blueprints, and pictures to China.

That same year, Tesla alleged that a former employee had uploaded Autopilot source code to his iCloud account and subsequently given it to Xpeng.