A former Apple employee that downloaded a plan for a self-driving car circuit board and booked a flight to China was arrested at the San Jose airport on July 7th. The man, Xiaolang Zhang, had made known that he was going to go work for a Chinese self-driving car startup and was bouncing with the secrets, perhaps as a bounty or shortcut.
The charges were reported earlier today by Reuters. An Apple spokesperson provided a statement to TechCrunch.
“Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously. 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 actions.”
Apple has been chiseling away at various angles on the self-driving problem for a few years now. An initial effort, project Titan, was significantly altered and some of the employees involved left Apple. Many on that project remain though and are working on other projects inside the company including computer vision, mapping and AI. There are still many opportunities for Apple to be involved in self-driving, whether that’s by providing a software platform or certain hardware components. Whatever they are doing it’s unlikely they’re happy about anyone stealing the work they’ve done so far.