Why Teslas Have Been Banned By Chinese Military (& What Elon Musk Says)

Tesla cars have reportedly been banned from military sites and housing compounds in China due to security concerns about their cameras and sensors.

Tesla’s electric vehicles (EVs) have reportedly been banned from Chinese military sites and housing compounds due to security concerns. A directive is said to have been circulated by the military advising Tesla owners to park their vehicles away from military property. Elon Musk, unsurprisingly, is said to have denied that there is anything for China to be worried about.

China is Tesla’s second-biggest market, with sales of $6.66 billion there last year coming in behind only the $15.2 billion sales in the US. The figure represents about a fifth of Tesla’s total worldwide sales and, crucially, it rose by more than double from the previous year. Not only is China a very important market for Tesla, but it is increasingly so.

Related: Why Bill Gates Likes Tesla But Doesn’t Drive One Of Its EVs

As such, news of the military ban, as reported by Bloomberg, will be of concern to the Palo Alto, California-based company. It’s said to center on the multi-directional cameras and ultrasonic sensors that are built into Tesla’s vehicles, with the notice quoted as suggesting that they could “expose locations.” An anonymous source familiar with the matter reportedly told Bloomberg that the Chinese military is concerned that Tesla is “collecting sensitive data via the cars’ in-built cameras in a way the Chinese government can’t see or control.”

What Has Elon Musk Said & Should Tesla Be Concerned?

Elon Musk

Following Bloomberg’s report, Reuters said Musk had commented on the ban during a virtual discussion for a prominent Chinese forum. He is quoted as having said: “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.” Such revelations would, indeed, surely pose an existential threat to Tesla as a company, with confidence in its security not just bottoming out with governments in markets around the world, but with its own customers.

From a military perspective, though, however unlikely it is that Tesla vehicles are being used for spying, it’s perhaps understandable that China would err on the side of caution. There are undoubted shades of the ban on Huawei’s communications infrastructure equipment in the US and around the world and a similar sense of prudence has been applied there.

While a ban from military sites alone won’t concern Tesla too much, the company will be keen to see that the concerns of the Chinese military don’t trickle into other areas. As Huawei can testify to, sales can turn quickly downhill when jitters spread about a potential security threat. Teslas, of course, aren’t in an area of such critical infrastructure and, for the time being, there’s no reason to think that mistrust will spread. It will, though, no doubt be keeping a close eye on the matter.

More: Is Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Safe Or Unfinished Beta Tech?

Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters

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