Tesla has released a new statement concerning recent developments of security concerns with its China-built cars. Recently, Tesla’s all-electric vehicles underwent a security review from Chinese officials, who were concerned that the cameras on and inside of the vehicle could be used to transmit sensitive government information to the U.S. as relations between the two countries have been complicated.
Chinese Gov’t tells Military, Gov’t personnel not to drive Teslas on State-related property
In the initial article from the Wall Street Journal from mid-March, Chinese government officials raised privacy concerns regarding the eight external and single cabin cameras outfitted on Tesla vehicles. Government employees, workers for State-related contractors, and Military personnel were all told to refrain from navigating Tesla cars on sensitive properties. The cameras on a Tesla are used for several reasons. Still, several Chinese government interests believed that they could be utilized to collect sensitive information that the United States could use against China.
In response to the accusations, Tesla CEO Elon Musk responded by stating that its vehicles are not recording any information that the government could utilize because of legal issues. “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 in an interview shortly after the WSJ article.
Tesla’s Company Response: Cameras aren’t active
Tesla has officially responded to the Chinese government’s concerns in posting on the Customer Support Weibo account it operates in China. The statement indicates that the cabin cameras are not activated outside of the North American market and that it is up to the driver to determine whether the camera needs to be active or stagnant.
The company went into more detail (via AutoHome China):
“Recently, there has been a discussion on the Internet about ‘Tesla monitors the owner through the camera in the car.’ In order to eliminate unnecessary misunderstandings, the following is specifically stated:
The vehicles used by Tesla users do not infringe on the privacy of users through the in-vehicle camera.
All Tesla user vehicles on the Chinese market have not turned on their in-vehicle cameras, nor are they involved in FSD Beta testing.
Tesla’s privacy protection policy complies with national laws and regulations. Like you, Tesla attaches great importance to the protection of user privacy. We are equipped with a network security system with the world’s leading security level to ensure user privacy protection. Thank you again for your attention to Tesla.”
The cabin camera was recently activated to monitor drivers who are a part of the FSD Beta program. The cabin camera is used to monitor whether the driver is paying attention to the road and its surroundings. If the vehicle’s cabin camera notices the driver is not attentive, it will revoke FSD Beta testing capabilities from that driver. It is a safety precaution to ensure the Beta testing sequence of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving systems goes smoothly, as an accident or mistake caused by an inattentive driver could send Tesla’s development of semi-autonomous driving functionalities back several years.
However, FSD Beta is only available to drivers in the United States at the current time, but it could make its way to Canada and other markets shortly. However, the Chinese market is not being used to test the FSD Beta, and there is no indication of when Tesla will roll out the functionality to other regions. Ultimately, it comes down to traffic and road rules being understood by Tesla’s self-driving software. “Very important to make sure this is done right,” Musk once said when talking about the suspended release of the FSD suite in other countries.