Apple’s long-overdue self-driving car project (dubbed Project Titan) has hit yet another bump.
The U.S. Justice Department has filed charges against a former Apple software engineer for allegedly downloading and passing on large quantities of the American company’s technology in relation to self-driving cars to a Chinese company.
The former Apple engineer has been identified by the charges as 35-year-old Weibao Wang, and was a former resident of Mountain View, California who began working at Apple in 2016.
Only a few months later in 2017, Mr Wang accepted a job with a Chinese company that was developing self-driving car software but, according to the indictment, he didn’t inform Apple of his new role for more than four months.
According to the charges, Mr Wang then proceeded to access large amounts of data on Apple’s self-driving project before his access was cut off on his last day with the company.
Apple reported the theft to the FBI at a later time when the discovery was made, with U.S. federal agents raiding Mr Wang’s home in June 2018 and finding large quantities of data stolen from Apple.
It’s alleged that shortly after the FBI raid, Mr Wang departed on a flight to China.
“We stand vigilant in enforcing U.S. laws to stop the flow of sensitive technologies to our foreign adversaries,” said Matt Olsen, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
“We are committed to doing all we can to prevent these advanced tools from falling into the hands of foreign adversaries.”
The U.S. technology giant has so far not commented on the story.
Apple was once seen as a genuine potential rival to the likes of Tesla in the automotive world with rumours of its ever-impending “Apple Car” never far from technologists’ minds, however, the project has mostly stalled since its inception in 2014.
Although there are autonomous cars testing today, the current date for the Apple Car unveiling appears to be somewhere around 2026.
Apple CEO Tim Cook famously once rejected a meeting with Elon Musk in regards to potentially taking a stake or buying Tesla outright, with Musk confirming the turn of events in a 2021 tweet by stating Apple cost itself potentially almost a trillion dollars in valuation gain.
“Cook and I have never spoken or written to each other ever,” Musk wrote. “There was a point where I requested to meet with Cook to talk about Apple buying Tesla.
“There were no conditions of acquisition proposed whatsoever. He refused to meet. Tesla was worth about six per cent of today’s value.”