XPeng Motors, Alibaba-backed Chinese car startup, recently hired Xiaolang Zhang, a former hardware engineer at Apple Inc., who was arrested by U.S. federal agents on July 7 and accused of stealing trade secrets, according to The Mercury News.
Zhang was hired by Apple in December 2015 to work on Project Titan which is responsible for developing the software and hardware for Apple’s autonomous driving project. Zhang on the computing team was in charge of the design and testing of circuit boards as well as analyzing sensory data, as Chinese media reported.
Zhang went on paternity leave this April and resigned from his position soon after he returned. He allegedly told his supervisor that he was going to work for XMotors, the American division of the Chinese electric vehicle startup, XPeng Motors.
Apple’s tech security team found an unusual amount of download activity when he returned his company iPhones and laptop. Zhang is accused of copying more than 40GB of Apple intellectual property to his wife’s computer, 60 percent of which was “highly problematic,” according to the complaint.
Zhang was arrested at the San Jose International Airport when he was boarding a flight for Hangzhou, China.
XPeng Motors released a statement saying that Zhang signed compliance documents related to intellectual property when he became an employee in early May. The documents do not show that Zhang has recorded any “sensitive or violating information”.
XPeng Motors also states that when the company became aware of the federal investigation on June 27, they have sealed off Zhang’s office and work computer, and that they will actively cooperate with the investigators on this case.
Below is a translated version of their full statement:
We are aware of the news reported by foreign media on July 1 that Xiaolang Zhang, a former employee of Apple, was arrested by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation with a complaint filed against him for stealing trade secrets.
XPeng Motors attaches great importance to protecting intellectual property rights and has always regarded compliance as the basic principle for all employees. Zhang signed the intellectual property compliance documents on his first day at the company in early May. Records show that he hasn’t reported any sensitive or violating information to XPeng Motors. On June 27, we learned about the investigation of Zhang by relevant departments in the United States and have sealed off Zhang’s computer and office supplies according to standard procedures. We will continue to proactively cooperate with local authorities on the relevant arrangements of this matter.
Prior to this, XPeng Motors did not know anything regarding this matter or was involved in any form. XPeng Motors will continue to follow this case and cooperate proactively. Thank you for your concerns and understanding.