May 22, 2023
A former software engineer at Apple has been charged with stealing the company’s technology for a Chinese self-driving firm.
The Department of Justice indicted Weibao Wang, previously of Mountain View, California, accusing him of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets in connection with a scheme to access, download and steal Apple technology related to autonomous systems.
Wang has been charged with six counts of theft or attempted theft of technology from Apple, including its “entire autonomy source code,” “behavior planner for an autonomous system,” “architecture design for an autonomous system” and “motion planner for an autonomous system.”
The indictment has come about via the Disruptive Technology Task Force, an initiative designed to prevent sensitive technology belonging to U.S. companies from falling into what is considered to be “the wrong hands,” specifically nation states deemed to be potentially hostile.
In a statement issued to the media, U.S. attorney Ismail J. Ramsey said: “Innovation is alive and well in Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, there will always be some who cheat the system by stealing and profiting from the fruits of others’ labor. The Wang prosecution is but one example. We are pleased that the Disruptive Technology Task Force renews energy and focus on securing innovation for those who actually create it.”
According to the indictment, Wang was employed by Apple between March 2016 and April 2018, but in November 2017 accepted an offer of employment from the U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese company.
It is alleged that Wang waited four months to inform Apple of his decision.
After Wang’s last day at Apple, the company viewed historical logs and identified that he had allegedly accessed large amounts of confidential proprietary data. A subsequent search of Wang’s California home by law enforcement on June 27 confirmed this, but despite assuring officers he was not a flight risk, Wang purchased a one-way ticket from San Francisco to Guangzhou that evening.
He is still believed to be in China and faces up to 10 years in prison and heavy fines for each count if found guilty.
Apple has not commented on the case and has remained tight-lipped about its plans for a car with self-driving capability, which it is believed to have been working on since 2014.
Occasional patent applications provide the odd clue as to areas of potential development, but the latest rumors suggest it is unlikely the public will see any autonomous vehicle from the company before 2026.
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