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Tesla EVs restricted for Chinese military over national security concerns

The country fears onboard cameras in the Tesla vehicles could leak sensitive information.

Tesla Model 3
Oh, the irony.

Chinese military and state personnel won't be able to drive their Tesla vehicles to work as the country fears the electric vehicles' cameras could be the source of leaked sensitive information, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal on Friday. The newspaper cited sources familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity. Tesla does not operate a public relations department to field requests for comment.

According to the report, a government security review of Tesla vehicles found the EVs cameras and sensors are capable of recording images and their location, which the Chinese government wants to keep secret from outsiders. China is concerned about the cars' ability to track data on where they're driven and how they're being used. Personal information, such as drivers' smartphone contacts that are synced with the cars, are also of concern to the state government, the sources said.

While Tesla owners serving in the Chinese military and holding sensitive state positions can still drive their vehicles, they may not drive them to work, nor to various compounds or other areas related to state industries and agencies.

China, the world's largest market for new vehicle sales, is as important to Tesla as it is to any other automaker. In 2020 the firm opened its first local assembly plant in the country outside Shanghai, which locally builds the Model 3 and Model Y EVs. Local sales helped the automaker come close to hitting its goal of 500,000 annual sales in 2020, even amid the coronavirus pandemic. CEO Elon Musk previously said the automaker will ramp up its Chinese operations to include a design studio, and a future $25,000 EV will likely court Chinese drivers' needs first before shipping out to other parts of the world, including the US.

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