Tesla says cameras in its cars are not activated in China

Tesla uses several small cameras in its cars to help guide parking, autopilot and self-driving functions.
Tesla uses several small cameras in its cars to help guide parking, autopilot and self-driving functions.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - Cameras that are built into Tesla's cars are not activated outside of North America, the electric carmaker's Beijing unit said in a statement on Weibo on Wednesday (April 7).

Even in the United States, vehicle owners are able to freely choose whether or not they want to turn on their cameras, Tesla said, noting that it has a world-leading network security system to protect users' privacy.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk was forced to defend the company's position on cameras last month after Bloomberg reported that its cars have been banned from Chinese military complexes and housing compounds because of concerns about sensitive data being collected by cameras built into the vehicles.

Speaking virtually to a conference, Mr Musk said that if Tesla ever used its cars to spy in China, or anywhere, the company would get "shut down everywhere".

"If a commercial company did engage in spying, the negative effects to that company would be extremely bad," he said at last month's China Development Forum, a gathering organised by a unit of the country's State Council.

Tesla, like many other automakers including General Motors, uses several small cameras, mainly located on the outside of the vehicle, to help guide parking, autopilot and self-driving functions.

Most Tesla models also have an interior camera mounted above the rear-view mirror that can be used to detect whether a driver is looking at the road, looking down at his lap, wearing sunglasses, or looking at something else entirely.

In the US, Tesla has started using its cars' internal cameras to monitor what it calls FSD (full self-driving) beta testers, or Tesla owners who have volunteered to test out the company's driver-assist capabilities.