Former Apple Employee Accused of Stealing Trade Secrets Now Exec at Baidu Self-Driving Car Joint Venture

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The U.S. government has accused Weibao Wang, a former Apple employee, of stealing trade secrets related to Apple’s self-driving car division. The alleged theft includes the entirety of Apple’s “autonomous” source code. Wang is now an executive at Jidu, an electric vehicle joint venture between Chinese companies Baidu and Geely. This development raises concerns about Beijing’s efforts to obtain proprietary information from American companies.

DOJ task force aims to counter technology theft

The charges against Wang were part of a Department of Justice (DOJ) task force’s efforts to combat illicit acquisition of sensitive U.S. technology by hostile nation-states. The U.S. government is concerned about tactics used by Beijing, including corrupting insiders, to steal proprietary information. Wang is accused of agreeing to work for a U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese automaker before leaving Apple and allegedly providing privileged information to an unnamed Chinese company.

Wang’s employment history and travel restrictions

After leaving Apple, Wang worked at Singularity.AI, a health care artificial intelligence firm, and later served as the chief technology officer at Neolix, a Chinese self-driving car company. In 2021, he joined Jidu to lead their intelligent-driving efforts. Law enforcement officials had previously searched Wang’s apartment based on suspicions of taking internal company files. Wang fled to China the same day, and the charges indicate he risks arrest if he attempts to travel to the U.S.

Previous cases and Apple’s self-driving car project

Wang is the third former Apple employee from China accused of stealing trade secrets related to Apple’s self-driving car division. Xiaolang Zhang and Jizhong Chen faced similar charges in previous cases. Apple has been working on a self-driving car project since 2015, though no official announcements have been made. Jidu, the joint venture involving Baidu, plans to introduce its first car this year and has expressed intentions to incorporate ChatGPT-like technology into its vehicles.

Source: ©CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images ;CNBC
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