Tesla Says the Cameras in Its Cars Aren’t Activated in China

Cameras that are built into Tesla Inc.’s cars aren’t activated outside of North America, the electric carmaker’s Beijing unit said in a statement on Weibo Wednesday.

Even in the U.S., vehicle owners are able to choose freely 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 Officer 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, 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 organized by a unit of the country’s State Council.

Tesla, like many other automakers including General Motors Co., 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 their lap, wearing sunglasses, or looking at something else entirely.

In the U.S., Tesla has started using 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.

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