Since then, Tesla has started using cars’ internal cameras to monitor what it calls FSD (full self driving) beta testers, or Tesla owners who have volunteered to test out the company’s driver-assist capabilities.
Earlier this month, Musk tweeted that the company’s FSD beta trial had been expanded to around 2,000 owners but Tesla had also “revoked beta where drivers did not pay sufficient attention to the road.” Musk said the next significant release of FSD beta would be in April.
Concern over this program contributed to the ban by the military, one of the people said.
None of the in-car cameras in Teslas sold in China are turned on or part of the FSD beta trial, the Tesla representative said. Tesla’s privacy policies comply with national laws and local regulations in China, the person said.
China, the world’s biggest market for EVs, is key to Musk’s global growth ambitions. The carmaker received significant support from the state to build the factory near Shanghai, its first outside of the US, and Musk’s strategy has been one of deference to the government, in contrast to his more combative approach in the US.
Recently, though, the tone seems to have shifted. Tesla was called in by Chinese regulators over quality and safety issues with its cars, including battery fires and abnormal acceleration. The automaker was also forced into issuing a public apology to China’s state grid in early February after a video purportedly showed staff blaming an overload in the national electricity network for damage to a customer’s vehicle.
Musk, appearing on Saturday at the China Development Forum, a conference organised by a unit of the country’s State Council, in a session titled: The Next Disruptive Innovation?, said the carmaker would be “shut down everywhere” if it used the technology in its cars for spying.
This isn’t the first time Tesla has found itself at the centre of controversy over the use of cameras. Last week, a group of hackers said they breached a trove of security-camera data collected by Silicon Valley startup Verkada, gaining access to many different types of footage, including some from inside a Tesla warehouse in Shanghai.
The hackers said they obtained access to 222 cameras in Tesla factories and warehouses and that the data breach was carried out to show the pervasiveness of video surveillance and the ease with which systems could be broken into. Tesla China told Bloomberg it was one of its suppliers that had been hacked, and that data from the Chinese Gigafactory is stored in secure local servers.