Former Apple Engineer Accused of Stealing Self-Driving Car Technology, Fleeing to China.
Weibao Wang, a former Apple engineer, has been charged with the theft of Apple’s self-driving car technology, nearly five years after he escaped to China. Prosecutors allege that Wang, 35, clandestinely worked for an unidentified Chinese company while pilfering thousands of proprietary files. The indictment includes six counts of theft or attempted theft of trade secrets. This marks the third instance of an ex-Apple employee being implicated in the pilfering of autonomous technology secrets for China.
According to the US Justice Department, Wang supposedly absconded with documents containing the source code for both the software and hardware underpinning Apple’s self-driving systems. He joined Apple’s autonomous systems technology development team in March 2016 and signed a confidentiality agreement regarding the project, which was known to only a select few within the company. Unbeknownst to Apple, Wang left the company in April 2018 and had already accepted an engineer position at a Chinese-based self-driving car development company more than four months prior, as asserted by US prosecutors.
In June 2018, law enforcement officials searched Wang’s residence in Mountain View, California, where he claimed he had no intention of leaving the US. However, on the same day, he purchased a one-way ticket to Guangzhou, China. Analysis of the seized devices from his home revealed extensive storage of Apple data related to self-driving car technology.
During a press conference, Ismail Ramsey, the US Attorney for the Northern District of California, confirmed that Wang remains in China. If ever extradited and convicted, he could face a maximum of 10 years in prison for each of the six charges. Apple has not yet responded to requests for comment.
This case follows the previous prosecution and guilty plea of Xiaolang Zhang, another former Apple employee involved in the theft of trade secrets, who was arrested in 2018 while attempting to fly to China. Jizhong Chen, yet another ex-Apple employee, is also facing similar charges.