Does Tesla spy on China?

Tesla does not spy on Chinathe United States and no other state. The denial had to come from Elon Musk in person.

The statement from the CEO and founder of the electric car company became necessary after Beijing accused Tesla of spying. And, as a result of this fear, he was banning the use of the US-brand car by employees of the military and large state corporations.

Let’s retrace the history of the story together.

Is Tesla spying on China? The Beijing allegations

A few days ago ChinaTesla’s second largest car market after the United States, he had curiously banned electric cars from Musk’s company.

This decision would have been made after an evaluation of the Beijing security apparatusaccording to which the collection of some information by Tesla’s hi-tech electric cars could jeopardize national security.

That’s why the use of electric cars by the Palo Alto-based company has been inhibited by those working for the state, such as employees of the military and major state companies. Furthermore, the military leaders would have been ordered to park the Tesla outside the military areas.

This is for fear that external sensors and cameras on cars could steal China’s military secrets.

The doubts of the Chinese government

More specifically, the Chinese government’s greatest suspicion is the Autopilot driving system. Tesla electric vehicles are equipped with advanced assisted driving which, with a surcharge, is able to transform into an autonomous driving system.

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For this function to be activated, a complex instrumentation comes into play that allows the vehicle to orient itself in the environment. Cameras, lidars (remote sensing tools that calculate the distance to an object using a laser pulse) and other types of sensors work as a composite artificial intelligence that reflects on the steering wheel, accelerator and brake, taking the place of the driver.

Beijing’s concern is that some of the information captured by this system can be transmitted to servers located outside the national territory. Hence the special precautions against military sites and movements of government officials. A ban on using Tesla cars and parking them inside military areas would prevent the risk of GPS locations and other sensitive national security data and information leaving Chinese territory.

Tesla does not spy on China: Elon Musk’s answer

In close turn, given the delicacy of the matter, Elon Musk’s denial came. That she spoke on video on Saturday 20 March. Moreover, precisely during the China Development Forum 2021, an economic conference underway in Beijing.

“Tesla cars do not do espionage, neither in China nor in the United States,” Musk said peremptorily.. Adding that “if Tesla were to use their cars to spy on what is happening on the road, in China as anywhere else in the world, it would simply be shut down. If Tesla used cars for espionage in one country, it would be banned in others as well, and this is a strong incentive to ensure data confidentiality. We have great interests in protecting any type of information we find ourselves managing ”.

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Elon Musk also explained the reason for the presence, in Tesla cars, of the rearview mirror camera.. These are the words of the CEO: “The camera is there for when we start competing with Uber and Lyft. That is when people will use their cars to earn money by exploiting the potential of Tesla. In case someone damages your car, you can check what happened in the video ”.


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According to some rumors, behind the espionage allegations there would be an attempt to corner an electric car manufacturer competing with some young Chinese companies.

The crackdown on Tesla would be a major blow to Elon Musk. In 2020, the company made a quarter of its global sales, which amount to half a million cars, in China.

It was Musk himself, at the China Development Forum, who recalled the cases of opposing ostracism. In other words, those in which the US government accused Chinese companies of espionage and boycotting.

Recall that Trumpin addition to having threatened to embargo the social network TikTok, during his administration he blacklisted thirty-five Chinese companiesas we highlighted in an article.

We’ll see if Musk’s intervention will be able to lower the tone and to bring the serene back to a relationship born under the best auspices. In 2018, Tesla was the first foreign car manufacturer to obtain permission to build a fully owned factory on Chinese soil.

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