A former Apple Inc. engineer was arrested on charges of stealing driverless car secrets for a Chinese startup after he passed through the security checkpoint at San Jose International Airport to board a flight to China. Xiaolang Zhang was accused by US prosecutors of downloading files containing proprietary information as he prepared to leave the iPhone maker in April and start work for Guangzhou-based Xiaopeng Motors. according to a criminal complaint filed Monday in federal court in San Jose, California. A hardware engineer for Apple\u2019s autonomous vehicle development team, Zhang was granted access to confidential company databases, according to the complaint. After he took paternity leave he told Apple in April he was moving back to China to work at Xmotors. Apple grew more suspicious after seeing his increased network activity and visits the office before he resigned, according to the complaint. Zhang admitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation that he downloaded Apple driverless technology files to his wife\u2019s laptop to have continued access to them, according to the complaint. He was arrested July 7. The charges against Zhang echo civil claims that Waymo, Alphabet Inc.\u2019s driverless unit, levelled against Uber Technologies Inc. and engineer Anthony Levandowski. While the lawsuit settled, a criminal investigation of Levandowski\u2019s alleged trade secret theft from Google remains unresolved. Waymo-Uber Trial Puts Spotlight on Tech\u2019s Age-Old Talent War The U.S. Treasury Department plans to heighten scrutiny of Chinese investments in sensitive U.S. industries under an emergency law. The crackdown is aimed at China\u2019s investment in new-energy vehicles, robotics and aerospace, interests the Trump administration has viewed as a threat to economic and national security, according to people familiar with the plans. Apple\u2019s self-driving car project is a rare initiative by the company that has played out in the public eye over the past few years. In 2015, Apple executives approved a plan to build a self-driving, electric vehicle to take on Tesla Inc. and the Detroit auto industry. Apple hired more than 1,000 engineers. However, about two years ago, Apple scaled back its plans to build a physical vehicle and has since had a team working on the underlying self-driving software and sensor technology. The self-driving space is exceptionally competitive, with dozens of companies across the world trying to take the lead in the burgeoning field. Apple has dozens of cars equipped with its software on the road today, but it\u2019s still unclear how Apple\u2019s reliability stacks up against other industry titans like Uber Technologies Inc. and Google\u2019s Waymo division. Apple plans to use its robocar technology on special Volkswagen vans to transport employees between offices. Apple hasn\u2019t said how or if it will eventually release its technology to consumers. About 5,000 of Apple\u2019s more than 135,000 full-time employees are disclosed on the car project. Out of those, roughly 2,700 workers have access to one or more Apple databases containing information about the project, according to the complaint. The majority of Zhang\u2019s network activity \u201cconsisted of both bulk searches and targeted downloading copious pages of information from the various confidential database applications,\u201d according to the complaint. Prosecutors accuse him of downloading engineering schematics, and technical manuals and reports. \u201cApple takes confidentiality and the protection of our intellectual property very seriously,\u201d company spokesman Tom Neumayr said in an email. \u201cWe\u2019re working with authorities on this matter and will do everything possible to make sure this individual and any other individuals involved are held accountable for their actions.\u201d Tamara Crepet, a federal public defender who is initially representing Zhang, didn\u2019t immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment. The case is the U.S.A. v. Zhang, 18-cr-70919, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).