Apple's self-driving electric car project has faced quite a few ups and downs in the past few years. Each time it seems like the initiative is picking up speed, it faces a setback, such as layoffs or top executives losing faith in it. While it may take several more years before the vehicle makes its way to consumers - if it does so at all -, the project is still well and alive, at least in courts.
As reported by Reuters, two Apple car engineers by the names of Xiaolang Zhang and Jizhong Chen were recently accused of stealing trade secrets from the Cupertino tech firm, and now, the former has pleaded guilty to the theft. According to Apple, the stolen material included a plan for a circuit board for the self-driving car.
According to U.S federal prosecutors, Zhang downloaded the trade secret from Apple's systems after disclosing his intentions to leave the company and join a new Chinese self-driving car start-up Xpeng back in 2018. Soon after, he booked a flight to China but was arrested at the San Jose airport while passing through a security checkpoint.
Initially, Zhang pleaded not guilty but later changed his decision after reaching a plea deal with the prosecutors. A formal sentencing will be announced in November 2022. Meanwhile, the other engineer Chen has pleaded not guilty and his court hearing is scheduled for August 29. For its part, Xpeng has stated that it has no involvement in the case and that the matter is between Apple and its ex-employees.