Elon Musk, the famous American entrepreneur, said Saturday (March 20) that his company would be shut down if tesla electric cars were used for espionage.
It was his first response to news that Tesla cars are suspected of having spying capabilities and that Chinese government authorities have ordered a ban on Tesla cars entering military units and sensitive sectors.
A report published Friday in The Wall Street Journal said people familiar with the matter leaked that China is restricting the use of Tesla cars by workers in the military, state-owned enterprises in sensitive sectors and key authorities, citing concerns that the U.S. electric carmaker’s cars could lead to leaks of national security information.
A security assessment of Tesla’s cars by the Chinese government found that the cars’ sensors can record visual images of surrounding locations, the sources said. Tesla cars may have access to personal information about when, how and where the car is used, as well as the driver’s personal information, and the contact list of the phone that is synced with the car.
The government is concerned that certain data could be sent back to the United States, people familiar with the matter said. As a result, the Chinese government has notified some authorities that its staff should not drive Tesla cars to work. Some sensitive industries and residential neighborhoods of important people have also banned Tesla cars.
Tesla CEO Musk made the remarks in a video address Saturday at the China Development Forum hosted by Chinese officials.
He said, “For a commercial enterprise, whether it’s a Chinese or American enterprise, if it does engage in espionage, that has a very negative impact on that enterprise.” “If Tesla uses a car to engage in espionage in China or elsewhere, it’s definitely going to be hard to move an inch.”
Musk said, “For Tesla, we have a strong willingness to keep secrets or we’ll be shut down. It’s the same for commercial enterprises, who are very serious about protecting privacy and confidentiality.”
Musk also urged the U.S. and China to build mutual trust in technology, which would otherwise undermine their technology competition and cooperation.
China is the world’s largest auto market and one of the most competitive and important battlegrounds for electric vehicles. Tesla sold more than 147,000 vehicles in China last year, accounting for 30 percent of its global sales. But the electric car market is becoming increasingly competitive, with domestic Chinese brands such as Future, Azure and Geely seeing their share of sales rise.