Ex-employee accused of stealing Apple Car plans pleads not guilty

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Apple's Car
Xiaolang Zhang is being charged with stealing trade secrets.
Photo: Aristomenis Tsirbas/Freelancer

The former Apple employee arrested for allegedly stealing plans for the Apple Car has pleaded not guilty to his charge.

Xiaolang Zhang was indicted on one single charge of trade secret theft. He’s accused of stealing a 25-page blueprint for a circuit board for Apple’s autonomous vehicle.

Zhang was arrested on July 7 after going through the security gates at San Jose airport. He was supposedly fleeing to China to join a self-driving car startup.

In response to the charge, Zhang has entered a not guilty plea. He has been provisionally appointed a public defender, and has also retained his own lawyer.

Given the apparent weight of evidence against Zhang, it will be interesting to see how the trial advances.

“Apple takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously,” an Apple representative previously told TechCrunch. “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.”

Project Titan is as big as its name suggests

Among the things we’ve so far learned from Zhang’s arrest is the sheer scale of the Apple Car (a.k.a. “Project Titan”) project. Despite previous reports that it was winding down, it now appears that Apple has thousands of people working on its automotive initiative.

“Approximately 5,000 of Apple’s over 135,000 full time employees are disclosed on the Project,” wrote Eric Proudfoot, the FBI Special Agent investigating this crime, in the official criminal complaint (PDF). “Not all employees disclosed on the Project are granted access to the Databases. After receiving disclosure, an employee must also separately request database access, unless they are designated as a ‘core employee’ for the Project. Approximately 2,700 employees have access to one or more of the Databases.”

Zhang faces a possible 10 years in prison, and a maximum $250,000 fine.

Source: Reuters