5,000 Apple employees working on self-driving car project

An Apple logo at a computer store ahead of the 17 January launch of sales of iPhone smartphones in a tie up with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator, in Beijing, China, Jan 15, 2014. EPA-EFE FILE/ADRIAN BRADSHAW

Los Angeles, USA, July 10 (efe-epa).- Apple has around 5,000 employees working on its self-driving vehicle project, according to information disclosed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in a court case on Tuesday.

This data was revealed as part of a legal complaint against a former Apple engineer, Xiaolang Zhang, who has been accused of stealing trade secrets and intellectual property from the US-based tech giant.

The lawsuit was filed June 9 in a federal court in San Jose, California, where Zhang appeared on Tuesday to answer questions related to the allegations.

As part of the inquiry, the FBI revealed that Apple has approximately 5,000 employees who are authorized to handle information relating to the project, which aims to develop “software and hardware for use in autonomous vehicles”.

The revelation of this data means that Apple has about 3.7 percent of its approximately 135,000 full-time workers working on its autonomous vehicle research.

The FBI investigation also revealed that access to the project database is restricted to only around 2,700 of the 5,000 authorized employees.

Speculation surrounding Apple’s possible project on self-driving cars has been rising for several years in Silicon Valley, but the tech giant has hardly given any clear details of its plan to the public.

Zhang started working for Apple in December 2015.

On April 30, he informed the company of his decision to resign, saying he intended to work at XMotors, a Chinese company that also focuses on autonomous vehicle technology.

According to the investigators, Zhang downloaded a large amount of information from Apple’s database days before he informed the company of his departure.