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China has now taken the unusual step in banning Tesla vehicles from entering certain military sites over national security concerns. According to the Wall Street Journal and a Bloomberg report, the Asian superpower is restricting the several state and military personnel from using Tesla cars.
These issues surfaced as Chinese and US diplomats were meeting in Alaska. It is the first in-person interaction between the two nations since US President Joe Biden took office in January.
China’s latest decision has come after it did a security analysis of the electric vehicles and found that the Tesla cameras can record the vehicle’s surroundings as well as allow the US manufacturer to acquire sensitive data, such as where and when a car is being used and allowing tracking of the driver’s personal information through the mobile phone when it’s connected to the car. The concern for China is that this information is collected and held in the United States, which could pose a security threat to the Chinese military and defense agencies.
Tesla’s long-held ambitions for full autonomous driving has spring boarded from its Navigate on Autopilot mode and the system is progressing with the latest release of the Full-Self Driving software. In both cases, the features use cameras and not the LIDAR sensors (light ranging and detection sensors) that most other EV manufacturers are using for autonomous systems.
Tesla is starting to face increased competition in China’s electric vehicle market with Xpeng Motors (XPEV) being the first local automaker to use Nvidia hardware to develop its advanced driver assistance software in-house. This system is considered to be of a very high standard, even being better than Nio’s and Tesla’s autonomous driving systems. And the largest carmaker in China, SAIC Motor recently announced plans to produce automated driving systems using lidar sensors and software from Luminar Technologies.
With other EV manufacturers using different designs and sensors, it could potentially put a lot more pressure on Tesla and affect its current market share in the country. Tesla’s Made-in-China Model 3 and Model Y had an estimated 13% of the Chinese EV market share within the first two months of this year. And the US company’s sales in the region more than doubled last year. So, is it realistic to think Tesla is going to take a knock regarding its camera reliant system for autonomous driving?
Tesla’s Technoking, Elon Musk said on the weekend that Tesla would have to shut down if its EVs were being used to spy. His comments came shortly after hearing the news that the Chinese military is banning the use of Teslas on its facilities.
Musk was holding a discussion panel with Xue Qikun, a Chinese scientist specializing in quantum physics, who is now head of Southern University of Scientist and Technology. The pair were participating in the China Development Forum, a high-level business gathering is hosted by a foundation under the State Council.
“There’s a very strong incentive for us to be very confidential with any information. If Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, we will get shut down,” Musk said during the virtual panel discussion. The Technoking added that “it would be good for the United States and China to have more trust in each other.”
Regardless of emerging EV rivals in China, Musk has worked hard to build relationships in the country and has been an influential employer through Tesla’s Shanghai Giga Factory, and highly regarded for its quality cars produced in the country.
Tesla’s Gigafactory in Shanghai engages in manufacturing in accordance with China’s laws and regulations. The manufacturing process is managed based on the highest standards and in a consistent manner.
And according to a J.D Power 2020 China New Energy Vehicle Experience Index Study, it was found that the “Tesla Model 3 is well-received by Chinese consumers as its design and performance beat their expectations in many aspects. In terms of driving experience and digital connectivity, conventional car brands now have a lot to learn from smart EV makers like Tesla.”