Ex-Apple engineer sentenced to six months in prison for stealing self-driving car tech

Xiaolang Zhang, the former Apple employee who pleaded guilty to stealing information about the development of the company’s self-driving vehicle, has been sentenced to 120 days in prison followed by a three-year supervised release. Zhang was arrested back in 2018 at San Jose International Airport just as he was about to board a flight to China. He initially pleaded not guilty until he changed his tune in 2022 and admitted to stealing trade secrets. In addition to serving time behind bars, he also has to pay restitution amounting to $146,984, according to the court document of his sentencing first seen by 9to5Mac. Zhang originally faced up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The former Apple employee worked as a hardware engineer for the company’s decade-old autonomous vehicle initiative codenamed Project Titan. Based on Apple’s complaint, Zhang transferred a 25-page document containing engineering schematics of a circuit board for the company’s self-driving vehicle to his wife’s laptop via AirDrop. He also saved a copy of technical manuals that described Apple’s prototype to that laptop, in addition to stealing circuit boards and a Linux server from the company’s development labs.

Zhang resigned from Apple following a paternity leave and a trip to China, telling the iPhonemaker that he was going to work in the country for XPeng Motors. That reportedly triggered an investigation, since XPeng is also working on autonomous driving technology, which revealed that Zhang was caught on CCTV taking hardware from Apple’s labs and transferring files to his wife’s computer. He’s expected to surrender himself by June 19, after which he will be sent to a minimum-security facility as close as possible to his home in San Jose, California.

Apple’s self-driving vehicle has been in the works for a decade, but it has yet to launch a product consumers can buy. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman recently reported that the company changed its plans and is now developing an EV like Tesla’s instead of a full-fledged autonomous vehicle. The long-awaited Apple Car is now projected to debut no earlier than 2028.

[colabot7]

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