China bars govt employees from taking their Tesla cars inside office compound

By Sayujya S, Desk Reporter
  • Follow author on
Tesla Image
Representational Image

According to sources, staff at some Chinese government offices have been told not to park their cars made by American electric vehicle maker Tesla inside government compounds due to security concerns over cameras installed on the vehicles.

The people said officials of at least two government agencies in Beijing and Shanghai have been instructed verbally by supervisors not to park their Tesla electric cars at work. It wasn’t clear how many cars were affected, the sources said.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether all government offices in Beijing have imposed such restrictions, nor whether the measure was a formal government injunction or a step adopted by agency officials. It was also unclear whether curbs applied to state agencies nationwide.

Security concerns

While sensors and cameras that can assist driving feature in many automakers’ vehicles, the people with knowledge of the matter said the restriction currently only applies to Tesla cars. In March, Tesla vehicles were banned from entering some military complexes in China, citing security concerns over vehicle cameras.

The restriction provides a fresh indication of China’s continued wariness of the US electric carmaker amid tensions between the two countries.

Facing greater scrutiny after safety and highly publicized customer service complaints in China, Tesla is boosting its engagement with mainland regulators and beefing up its government relations team.

China, the world’s biggest car market, is the electric carmaker’s second-biggest market, accounting for about 30 percent of its sales. Tesla now makes electric Model 3 sedans and Model Y sport-utility vehicles in a Shanghai plant.

More cameras and sensors

Automakers like Tesla have been equipping more vehicles with cameras and sensors that capture images of a car’s surroundings. Control of how those images are used and where they are sent and stored is a fast-emerging challenge for the industry and regulators around the world.

Tesla cars have several external cameras to assist drivers with parking, changing lanes and other features. Chief Executive Elon Musk has commented frequently on the value of the data that Tesla vehicles capture which can be used to develop autonomous driving.

Tesla said it would open a data center in China and is developing a data platform for car owners in China.

Related: Musk’s decision on bitcoin pleases some Tesla investors