A former engineer for Apple’s autonomous electric car has pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets from the tech giant, and sharing the information with a Chinese start-up, which could lead up to $US250,000 in fines and 10 years in jail.
A former Apple employee in the US has pleaded guilty to stealing trade secrets from the tech giant’s autonomous electric-car project.
Mr Zhang reportedly intended to pass on the stolen information to Chinese electric car start-up XPeng.
In the US, conviction of theft of trade secrets can result in a fine of up to $US250,000 ($AU359,000) and 10 years of jail time.
Mr Zhang joined Apple in 2015 as an engineer on the tech giant’s secretive autonomous electric car project, working at the firm’s headquarters in California.
According to an earlier report by The Verge, Apple investigated Mr Zhang in April 2018 after security of him leaving the company’s autonomous vehicle lab with a number of items.
On May 5, 2018, Mr Zhang was reportedly “voluntarily terminated” from Apple after claiming to work for XPeng, with the tech giant alerting the US FBI of its investigation findings later that month.
The FBI searched Mr Zhang’s home and interviewed him on June 27, 2018, where the former Apple employee reiterated what he had told the tech giant a month prior.
However, on July 7, 2019, Mr Zhang was arrested at San Jose International Airport before he attempted to board a return flight to Beijing, China.
Mr Zhang’s sentencing hearing in the US is set for November 14, 2022.
The Verge also reports Chinese national Jizhong Chen became the second former Apple engineer to be charged with trade secret theft in 2019.
Apple first announced it was working on autonomous car technology in June 2017, although it did not confirm whether the tech would be used in its own car.
As reported by Drive, the autonomous electric car could be revealed as soon as 2025, with more than 5000 employees understood to be involved in the project.
To read more Drive articles on the rumoured Apple car click here.