Visitors look at an electric SUV Jidu Robo-01 during the 20th Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition at the Canton Fair Complex on December 30, 2022 in Guangzhou, China.

Zou Wei | Visual China Group | Getty Images

On Tuesday, the US Govt the accused a precedent Apple employee, Weibao Wang, for stealing trade secrets from the company’s self-driving car division, including all of Apple’s “autonomous” source code.

The U.S. government did not identify in the charging documents who Wang is working for now, but according to Reuters and several business profilesWang is the head of Jidu, an electric vehicle joint venture between Chinese Internet companies Baidu and the Chinese car manufacturer Geely.

The US government is concerned that Beijing uses various tactics to steal proprietary information from American companies, including “corrupting insiders.” Tuesday’s announcement was part of a Justice Department task force designed to “counteract efforts by hostile nation-states to illegally acquire sensitive U.S. technology.”

Federal prosecutors have accused Wang of agreeing to work for a U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese automaker months before he left Apple in 2018, and of stealing privileged information related to Apple’s autonomous systems development, allegedly to an unnamed Chinese company.

According to a since-deleted LinkedIn profile that appeared in a Chinese interview, after Wang left Apple, he began working at a healthcare artificial intelligence company called Singularity.AI, which has offices in California and China. After that, he worked as a technical director at Neolix, a Chinese self-driving car company. In 2021, Wang joined Jidu to drive the company’s intelligent driving efforts.

In June 2018, law enforcement officials searched Wang’s apartment due to Apple’s suspicions that he had taken internal company files. Wang bought a ticket and flew to China the same day, according to Tuesday’s filing. The charges suggest Wang can no longer travel to the United States without risking arrest.

Wang is the third former Apple employee from China accused of stealing trade secrets from Apple’s self-driving car division. Xiaolang Zhang, who worked at Apple around the same time as Wang, pleaded guilty to steal trade secrets from Apple in August. And ex-Apple employee Jizhong Chen also faces charges, but a trial date for his case has yet to be set.

Neither Zhang nor Chen were able to leave the country before they were arrested separately in 2018 and 2019, and Apple’s lawyers said in 2019 they were worried that they would flee to China.

Apple has reportedly have worked on a self-driving car since at least 2015, though it has never publicly discussed its goals or plans and no car has been announced. The most public sign of Apple’s efforts is a fleet of cars equipped with sensors to collect data, which can be seen driving around some California neighborhoods.

In February, Jidu confirmed plans to deliver its first car this year, and that it will use ChatGPT-like technology in its vehicles.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment. An Apple representative declined to comment. Baidu and the FBI’s San Francisco field office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.