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Tesla would be shut down if its cars spied in China: Musk

Musk has warned against the dangers of AI in the past (PHOTO: REUTERS)

BEIJING: Tesla chief executive Elon Musk said his company would be shut down if its cars were used to spy, his first comments on news that China’s military has banned Tesla vehicles from its facilities.

“There’s a very strong incentive for us to be very confidential with any information,” Musk told the China Development Forum during a virtual discussion. “If Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, we will get shut down.”

It was reported the Chinese military has banned Tesla cars from entering its complexes, citing security concerns over cameras installed on the vehicles.

Those restrictions surfaced as the top Chinese and Us diplomats were holding a contentious meeting in Alaska, the first such in-person interaction since President Joe Biden took office in January. Musk urged greater mutual trust between the world’s two biggest economies

He was holding a discussion panel with Xue Qikun, a Chinese quantum physicist who heads the Southern University of Science and Technology. The high-level business gathering is hosted by a foundation under the State Council.

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In China, the world’s biggest car market and a key battleground for electric vehicles (EVs), Tesla sold 147,445 vehicles last year, 30% of its global total. However, it is facing more competition this year from domestic rivals from Nio to Geely.

Musk has made several high-profile appearances in China, where Tesla makes as well as sells EVs. In 2019, he discussed Mars and artificial intelligence with Alibaba’s outspoken founder Jack Ma.

The US electric car maker won strong backing from Shanghai when it built its first overseas factory there in 2019. Tesla’s sleek Model 3 sedans were the best-selling electric vehicle in the country before being overtaken by a much cheaper micro EV.

Automakers have been equipping more vehicles with cameras and sensors that capture images of a car’s surroundings. Control of how those images are used and where they are sent and stored is a fast-emerging challenge for the industry and regulators around the world.

Tesla cars have several external cameras to assist drivers with parking, changing lanes and other features. Musk has often spoken about the value of the data Tesla vehicles capture that can be used to develop autonomous driving. Tesla’s Model 3 and Model Y also have cameras in the rear view mirror for driver safety that are disabled by default.