A former Apple engineer accused of absconding from the company with trade secrets on self-driving cars fled to China, federal officials reported.
The 35-year-old Mountain View, California, resident joined Apple in 2016 as a software engineer to work on autonomous systems, such as those used in self-driving vehicles, the US Attorney’s Office for Northern California said in a May 16 news release.
In 2017, he agreed to move to a US subsidiary of a company based in China that also was working on self-driving vehicles, prosecutors said. But he waited four months to tell Apple he was leaving.
After he departed Apple in spring 2018, the company discovered he had “accessed large amounts of sensitive proprietary and confidential information in the days leading up to his departure,” the release said.
FBI agents searched his home in connection with a probe into the stolen secrets in June 2018, prosecutors said.
Despite telling agents he had no plans to travel, the man booked a one-way flight to China from San Francisco International Airport and left the United States that night, the release said.
A subsequent investigation revealed he had stolen the entire autonomy source code, tracking and behaviour software, hardware plans and other documents, prosecutors said.
A federal grand jury has now indicted him on charges of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets, the release said.
“Innovation is alive and well in Silicon Valley – indeed, throughout the Northern District of California,” said US Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey in the release. “Unfortunately, there will always be some who cheat the system by stealing and profiting from the fruits of others’ labour.”
Apple did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on the case. – The Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service