There was a theft of secret data concerning the Apple Car project. The culprit is Xiaolang Zhang, a former employee of the Cupertino company, who four years after the incident has negotiated the sentence by pleading guilty before the federal courthouse in San Jose, California. Despite admitting to stealing data from the company’s computers, Zhang still faces 10 years in prison and a $ 250,000 fine.
The Apple Car project, we know, proceeds with difficulty between denials and admissions. In the last year there have been several conflicting signals: there was talk of a debut in 2025, then of a reorganization of the work team, then again of departures and new arrivals. Concrete – under the sunlight – there is still nothing, but the fact that the former employee has stolen internal files containing valuable documents it can be interpreted as a confirmation not so much of the project itself, but of its current development. Zhang worked at Apple from 2015 to 2018 as a hardware engineer in the Autonomous Vehicle Working Group. In particular, he was involved in the design and testing of printed circuit boards for car sensors.
Among the stolen material are manuals, prototype descriptions and a 25-page document with technical schematics of a printed circuit board for a self-driving car. Apple discovered the theft after the employee requested paternity leave to return to China. Once back in California he resigned, explaining that he was going to work at Xmotors. From that moment on, the Cupertino company blocked access to the internal network.
Zhang was though pinched by CCTV cameras to steal data and hardware from the company’s labs. A second case of the theft of confidential information on Apple Car occurred in 2019: the accused, the American citizen Jizhong Chen, however, never pleaded guilty. The sentence in the Xiaolang Zhang case is expected in November.