Inc. engineer was arrested on charges of
stealing driverless car secrets for a Chinese startup after he
passed through the security checkpoint at San Jose International
Airport to board a flight to China.
Zhang was accused by U.S. prosecutors of downloading files
containing proprietary information as he prepared to leave the
iPhone maker in April and start work for Guangzhou-based Xiaopeng
Motors. according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in
federal court in San Jose, California.
hardware engineer for Apple’s autonomous vehicle development
team, Zhang was granted access to confidential company
databases, according to the complaint. After he took paternity
leave he told Apple in April he was moving back to China to work
at Xmotors. Apple grew more suspicious after seeing his
increased network activity and visits to the office before he
resigned, according to the complaint.
admitted to the Federal
Bureau of Investigation that he
downloaded Apple driverless technology files to his wife’s
laptop to have continued access to them, according to the
complaint. He was arrested July 7.
charges against Zhang echo civil claims that Waymo, Alphabet
Inc.’s driverless unit, leveled against Uber Technologies Inc.
and engineer Anthony Levandowski. While the lawsuit settled,
a criminal investigation of
Levandowski’s alleged trade secret theft from Google remains
Trial Puts Spotlight on Tech’s Age-Old Talent War
U.S. Treasury Department plans
to heighten scrutiny of Chinese
investments in sensitive U.S. industries under an emergency law.
The crackdown is aimed at China’s investment in new-energy
vehicles, robotics and aerospace, interests the Trump
administration has viewed as a threat to economic and national
security, according to people familiar with the plans.
self-driving car project is a rare initiative by the company
that has played out in the public eye over the past few years.
In 2015, Apple executives approved a plan to build a
self-driving, electric vehicle to take on Tesla Inc. and the
Detroit auto industry. Apple hired more than 1,000 engineers.
about two years ago, Apple scaled back its plans to build a
physical vehicle and has since had a team working on the
underlying self-driving software and sensor technology. The
self-driving space is exceptionally competitive, with dozens of
companies across the world trying to take the lead in the
has dozens of cars equipped with its software on the road today,
but it’s still unclear how Apple’s reliability stacks up against
other industry titans like Uber Technologies Inc. and Google’s
Waymo division. Apple plans to use its robocar technology on
special Volkswagen vans to transport employees between offices.
Apple hasn’t said how or if it will eventually release its
technology to consumers.
5,000 of Apple’s more than 135,000 full-time employees are
disclosed on the car project. Out of those, roughly 2,700
workers have access to one or more Apple databases containing
information about the project, according to the complaint.
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. Prosecutors accuse him of downloading
engineering schematics, and technical manuals and reports.
takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual
property very seriously,” company spokesman Tom Neumayr said in
an email. “We’re working with authorities on this matter and
will do everything possible to make sure this individual and any
other individuals involved are held accountable for their
Crepet, a federal public defender who is initially representing
Zhang, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call seeking
case is U.S.A. v. Zhang, 18-cr-70919, U.S. District Court,
Northern District of California (San Jose).
with Waymo litigation in fifth paragraph.)