Remember Project Titan, the secret project that Apple started to take over the likes of Google, Tesla, and Uber in the self-driving, and largely automobile sector. The project has received many setbacks over the years but the company continues to assert that it is committed at making things work. However, while the company is working on its first automobile car, a new report has emerged stating that authorities have charged an ex-Apple employee for stealing trade secrets related to Project Titan. According to a report by Reuters, authorities charged the former employee with “downloading a blueprint related to a self-driving car” on his personal laptop before attempting to flee the country.
The ex-employee Xiaolang Zhang was attempting to flee to China where he was likely to work with a self-driving startup “Xiaopeng Motors”. The report went on to detail that Zhang was one of the 5,000 employees at Apple who had access to the secret databases about self-driving car project. Out of those 5,000 people, only 2,700 had access to the databases that Zhang had access to. The FBI had questioned him and searched his house to find that he had booked a last minute round-trip ticket to China on July 7. He was caught with a “proprietary chip” as hardware along with a 25-page secret blueprint on his personal laptop at the San Jose airport.
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Zhang was almost successful in fleeing according to the report as he had already passed the security checkpoint at the time he was arrested. The reason why he was caught was that he had expressed his desire to resign and then move to China and work for the startup. Apple had hired him “to develop software and hardware” for Project Titan and his job was to design and test the circuit boards for analyzing the sensor data.
What tripped Apple off to report Zhang was when his supervisor called Apple security officials “who discovered that Zhang had run extensive searches of secret databases” and that he came to the campus on April 28 when he was supposed to be on a paternity leave. According to the report. Zhang told Apple that the reason he took “the hardware from the lab” was “because he wanted to transfer to a new position within Apple” and that the hardware could help him.
Apple issued a statement to Reuters adding “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.”