China will ban Teslas from driving in certain places for safety reasons. It’s just a preview of what’s to come

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Beidaihe is a seaside tourist resort east of Beijing where a secret conclave of the top Chinese government is held every year. The authorities of said district have announced that Tesla cars will be prohibited from circulating on those roads for at least two months from next July 1.

It’s not the first time. The measure may seem surprising, but it is not in fact the first time that the Chinese Government has taken measures of this type: last year banned that these cars could circulate through their military complexes.

The measures taken in Beidaihe follow similar ones that took place begining of June, when Tesla cars were banned from driving in the city of Chengdu. In those days, the visit to the city of the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, took place.

The reason, then and now, is the same: concern for national security. Or what is the same: in China they believe that the Tesla can end up spying on them.

Tesla gets along (theoretically) well with China. Tesla, which has not commented on the matter, has been selling its electric cars at Tesla for some time and conquering that country that had resisted him. In fact, the giant Tencent bought a 5% stake in the company created by Elon Musk years ago.

Not only that: the Tesla plant located in Shanghai is one of the most important in the entire company: Model 3 and Model Y are manufactured there both to be sold in China and to be exported. That factory was responsible for half of the 936,000 vehicles that Tesla sold in 2021, although the plant has gone through numerous stoppages related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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But their cars are full of sensors and cameras. That theoretical good relationship with Chinese companies and with his government does not seem to have been enough to free him from suspicions of a hypothetical use of those cars to spy on his presidents. Cameras installed in vehicles, a source said last year spoke to Reuterscould be one of the instruments of this potential espionage activity.

Musk denies the biggest. At that time Elon Musk indicated that Tesla cars did not spy on China or anywhere else, and that if they did the company would go bankrupt. Months later, Tesla also highlighted that all the data generated by the cars they sold in China was stored on servers in that country.

Even the United Nations have taken action on the matter. This body has created UN Regulation 155 Cybersecurity Management System Certificationwhich is awarded to manufacturers that pass a series of tests and validations related to the cybersecurity of “intelligent cars” that are gradually conquering our roads.

Who spies on whom? The surprising move by Chinese rulers is yet another chapter in the stance that companies are guilty until proven guilty. It happened to Huawei in the United States – without ever proving that it had spied – and that was a clear trigger for the trade war that the then-led country with Trump had with China. With Biden, things have not relaxed.

The truth is that Teslas, like so many other cars today, are basically computers — very powerful — on wheels. The large number of sensors and technology that they integrate can certainly potentially enable other than those merely focused on driving, but it does not seem logical that a company like Tesla, which is so interested in selling a lot and well in China, ends up using its cars to spy to their rulers.

Beidaihe is a seaside tourist resort east of Beijing where a secret conclave of the top Chinese government is held…

Beidaihe is a seaside tourist resort east of Beijing where a secret conclave of the top Chinese government is held…

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