Some Chinese Communist Party government workers have been told not to park Tesla Inc. cars in government office areas because of security concerns about in-car cameras.
A Reuters report on Thursday (May 21) cited sources familiar with the matter as saying that officials at at least two government agencies in Beijing and Shanghai have received verbal instructions from their supervisors not to park Tesla electric cars in their office areas. The report’s source, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, was also unclear how many cars were affected.
Reuters reported that it was unclear whether all government agencies in Beijing had imposed such restrictions, or whether the measure was a formal government ban or a step taken by agency officials. It was also unclear whether the restrictions applied to state agencies nationwide.
While sensors and cameras can assist many automakers with driving features, restrictions are currently only in place for Tesla vehicles, people familiar with the matter said. Reuters had cited sources in a report that said Tesla cars were banned from some military bases in China in March this year, citing security concerns about on-board cameras.
The restriction provides a new sign that China continues to be wary of U.S. electric car makers amid tensions with Washington.
Reuters previously cited industry sources in a report that said Tesla was facing increased scrutiny after safety concerns in China and widely publicized customer service complaints. Tesla is increasing its cooperation with regulators in mainland China and strengthening its government relations team.
China is the world’s largest auto market and the second-largest market for electric car makers, accounting for about 30 percent of their sales. Tesla now produces the electric Model 3 sedan and Model Y sport utility vehicle at its Shanghai plant.
Automakers such as Tesla have been equipping more cars with cameras and sensors to capture images of the car’s surroundings. Controlling how these images are used and where they are sent and stored is a new challenge for industry and regulators around the world.
Tesla cars have multiple external cameras that help drivers park, change lanes and other functions. CEO Elon Musk has often commented on the value of data captured by Tesla vehicles that could be used to develop autonomous driving.
In March, days after China banned the use of Tesla cars in military complexes, Musk appeared via video at a high-level China forum and said Tesla would be shut down if it used its cars to spy in China or anywhere else.
Tesla said it will open a data center in China and is developing a data platform for Chinese car owners.