Ex Apple iCar Engineer Heading For China’s XPeng Admits Stealing Secrets


An ex-Apple engineer employed to work on the company’s autonomous car project has admitted stealing secrets prior to leaving for China to start a new role with XPeng.

Zhang Xiaolang was hired by Apple in 2015, but in 2018 announced he would be resigning to return to China where he could be nearer his ill mother, and where he would take a job with the Asian brand. He was arrested before he could take a one-way flight to China that same year.

The Chinese-born engineer had downloaded a 25-page Apple document to his wife’s computer containing sensitive information including drawings showing a circuit board for the Silicon Valley company’s electric car, prosecutors claim.

Xiaolang admitted a single count of stealing trade secrets at a hearing in San Jose, California, this week and could face up to 10 years in jail and a $250,000 fine when he returns to court for sentencing in November, though the judge has ordered details of a plea deal to be sealed from public view.

Related: Apple Swipes Lamborghini Chassis Expert To Work On Secret EV

Zhang Xiaolang was planning to start a new job at Xpeng after leaving for China with Apple secrets

XPeng said it was aware of the case from news stories in the media, but claims it isn’t clear about the details and is not involved in investigations by U.S. authorities.

“We have no controversy against Apple and have no correlation with this case,” the Chinese carmaker said in a statement reported by Bloomberg. “XPeng strictly abides by the related laws and highly values the protection of intellectual property.”

Xiaolang isn’t the only Apple engineer accused of trying to take secrets to Chinese auto companies. Jizhong Chen was arrested in 2019 before taking a flight to China where he was hoping to work for a local firm. When authorities searched a hard drive belonging to the engineer they found thousands of sensitive Apple documents and 100 photographs taken inside the company’s autonomous facility, Bloomberg reports. Unlike Xiaolang, Chen has pleaded not guilty.

Note: The lead image on this story is a rendering by Carscoops/Josh Byrnes that imagines how an Apple car might look, and is not endorsed by Apple Inc.


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