China’s Military Just Banned Tesla: What’s Going On?

China’s military has banned all Tesla vehicles from its military complexes and housing. It fears how Teslas have data collection and camera capabilities and that those could be used for espionage. If Tesla owners must go to military areas they are to park outside of these Chinese properties. The Chinese military says Tesla in-car cameras collect sensitive data that the Chinese government can’t control-the operative word being “control.”

China’s specifically says the concern is cameras may “expose locations”

The cameras and ultrasonic sensors are used to aid in parking, autopilot functions, and self-driving features. There is also a camera inside that monitors the driver to alert dozing or distracted drivers. The notice specifically says the concern is cameras may “expose locations” according to Bloomberg.

Tesla manufactures its Model 3 sedan and Model Y SUV at its Gigafactory in Shanghai. Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, has always touted the onboard cameras “in case someone messes up with your car you can check the video.” Its Full Self Driving technology is slowly being added with 2,000 owners in a Beta program right now. 

Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors, speaks during a press conference prior to unveiling the Model X SUV during an event in Fremont, California, on September 29, 2015.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk | Getty

But the cameras in Chinese-built Teslas are not turned on. Tesla maintains that it complies with national and local laws and regulations in countries that Teslas are sold. But this latest news ties into how we are seeing China slowly turning on Tesla.

Things seem to be going sour between Tesla and China

When Tesla announced it was looking at setting up a Gigafactory in Shanghai, the Chinese government put out the welcome mat. But recently things seem like they might be going sour between Tesla and China. Chinese regulators drilled Tesla with concerns about the safety and quality of Tesla cars

There have been a number of Tesla cars catching on fire along with acceleration issues. Then last month China’s government made Tesla issue an apology to its state-run electrical grid. This was in response to a video showing Tesla staff blaming damage to a Tesla vehicle from an overload in the grid. So this is now the third wrinkle in what looked to be very smooth relations between Tesla and the Chinese government. 

Employees work at the Tesla Gigafactory in Shanghai, east China, Nov. 20, 2020. U.S. electric car company Tesla in 2019 built its first Gigafactory outside the United States
The Tesla Model 3 at Shanghai factory | Getty

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But there may be more to come. Last week it was revealed that hackers broke into security footage through security company Verkada Inc. The footage was from many businesses using Verkada’s security services. Some of that video dealt with footage from Tesla’s Shanghai warehouse. 

Hackers are bragging they breached 222 Tesla Shanghai factory cameras

Hackers are now bragging that they breached over 200 Tesla Shanghai factory cameras. The footage of Tesla properties in China is stored in secure servers. But the hackers say they broke into these video security archives to show how easy video surveillance can be breached. 

We don’t know why the Chinese government has turned sour on Tesla as it has. But these incidents show a marked change in the country’s relationship with Tesla. It doesn’t seem to be all that friendly anymore. Meanwhile, Tesla is the number two best-selling EV in China.