Tesla Car Cameras Not Activated Outside North America

Tesla's Model Y. Image credit: Tesla

No spying. US electric car giant Tesla tells China that the cameras on its cars are not activated outside of North America

The world’s most valuable car maker, Tesla, has delivered a very public reassurance to Chinese authorities over security concerns.

Last month it was reported that China’s military had banned Tesla cars from its facilities, including housing complexes, over national security concerns.

The reports also stated that the Chinese government had restricted Tesla cars for military staff and employees of sensitive state-owned companies. Concerns has been raised because Tesla cars feature a number of internal and external cameras that are used for navigation and safety purposes.

Tesla's Model Y. Image credit: Tesla
Tesla’s Model Y. Image credit: Tesla

China concerns

Industry watchers said at the time that the Chinese government’s actions were probably intended to echo those of the US government in restricting Huawei.

And Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, rushed to reassure Chinese authorities that its cars could not spy for US authorities.

Musk denied the company’s electric cars could be used to leak information from China.

If the company did so it would be “shut down”, Musk told the China Development Forum, an annual event organised by a unit of China’s State Council.

“There’s a very strong incentive for us to be very confidential with any information,” Musk told attendees via video link. “If Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, we will get shut down.”

Tesla became the first foreign automaker to operate a wholly owned factory in China with its Shanghai plant, which opened in 2019.

But Chinese regulators summoned the firm in February over customers’ reports of quality issues, including battery fires.

No cameras

Now this week Tesla announced on its Chinese social media page on Wednesday, that cameras in Tesla cars were not activated outside of North America.

“Even in the United States, car owners can freely choose whether to turn on its (the camera system’s) use. Tesla is equipped with a network security system with world-leading security levels to ensure user privacy protection,” the electric carmaker was quoted by Reuters as writing on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media site.

Tesla this week posted record electric vehicle deliveries for its January to March quarter, beating analysts’ estimates in spite of a global shortage of automotive processors.

The company delivered 184,800 vehicles globally for the quarter, well above analysts’ estimates of around 168,000 vehicles, according to FactSet data. That is also above Tesla’s previous record quarter of 180,570 delivered in the final quarter of 2020.

The company has become by far the most valuable carmaker in the world by market capitalisation, in spite of production that is far lower than the likes of Toyota, Volkswagen and GM.