Apple has long been rumored to be developing an electric vehicle under the guise of “Project Titan.” In federal court in San Jose, Xiaolang Zhang, a former Apple employee accused of stealing computer files containing trade secrets about Apple’s secretive car division, pleaded guilty.
Zhang faces up to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine after pleading guilty to a felony charge of trade secret theft. He has accepted a deal with the US court and changed his plea to guilty. The sentencing is set for November.
Zhang was apprehended by federal agents at the San Jose airport in July 2018, where he was scheduled to fly to China. He was accused of downloading a 25-page document containing engineering schematics for an autonomous vehicle’s circuit board. He was also accused of stealing reference manuals and PDFs describing Apple prototypes.
After leaving Apple, Xiaolang Zhang was working at Xpeng Motors, a new Chinese electric vehicle company. The automaker issued a statement denying any involvement in the matter and distancing itself from his actions. According to the carmaker’s statement, once the investigation began in 2018, Xpeng cooperated and sealed his desk and office to comply with US authorities. So far, there is no record of Zhang leaking Apple secrets to Xpeng.