Tesla cars reportedly barred from some China government compounds

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BEIJING – Staff at some Chinese government offices have been told they are not allowed to park their Tesla cars inside government buildings due to concerns about the cameras installed on the vehicles, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The people said officials from at least two government agencies in Beijing and Shanghai have received verbal instructions from regulators not to park their Tesla electric cars at work. It was not clear how many cars were involved, the people said, and they did not want to be identified due to the sensitivity of the case.

It was not immediately clear whether all government offices in Beijing have imposed such restrictions, or whether the measure was a formal government order or a step taken by agency officials. It was also unclear whether curbs applied to government agencies across the country.

While sensors and cameras that can aid in driving are found in many automakers’ vehicles, those with knowledge said the restriction currently only applies to Tesla cars. In March, Tesla vehicles were not allowed to enter some military complexes in China, sources then told Reuters, citing concerns about vehicle camera safety.

Neither the State Council Information Office (SCIO), which handles media requests for the Chinese government, nor Tesla China officials immediately responded to requests for comment.

The restriction provides yet another indication of China’s continued caution toward the US electric car maker amid tensions with Washington.

As Tesla gets more attention following security complaints and a lot of publicity about customer service in China, Tesla is strengthening its involvement with mainland regulators and strengthening its government relations team, industry sources previously told Reuters.

China, the world’s largest car market, is the electric car manufacturer’s second largest market, accounting for about 30% of its sales. Tesla now makes electric Model 3 sedans and Model Y SUVs at a factory in Shanghai.

Car manufacturers such as Tesla have equipped more vehicles with cameras and sensors that capture images of a car’s surroundings. Control over how those images are used and where they are sent and stored is a rapidly emerging challenge for industry and regulators around the world.

Tesla cars have a variety of remote cameras to assist drivers with parking, lane changes and other functions. Chief Executive Elon Musk has often commented on the value of the data capturing Tesla vehicles that can be used to develop autonomous driving.

Days after the March ban on Tesla cars in military complexes, Musk appeared via video on a high-level Chinese forum and said that if Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, it would be shut down.

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

(Report by Beijing editors; edited by Kenneth Maxwell)