Tesla Says Vehicle Cameras Are Not Activated Outside North America

Kimberly Redmond  |

Cameras that are built into Tesla Inc’s cars are not activated outside of North America, the electric carmaker said on Wednesday.

In a statement posted on Weibo, a Chinese social media site, Tesla’s Beijing unit said, “Even in the United States, car owners can freely choose whether to turn on its [the camera system’s] use. Tesla is equipped with a network security system with world-leading security levels to ensure user privacy protection.” 

After reports last month that Beijing had banned military officers and key personnel at various state departments from driving their Teslas into sensitive complexes and agencies over concerns the vehicle cameras were collecting data, the California-based electric carmaker has been making an effort to assuage security concerns in one of its biggest markets.

Tesla chief Elon Musk spoke at a virtual conference

, saying, “If Tesla used cars to spy in China or anywhere, we will get shut down.” 

“There’s a very strong incentive for us to be very confidential with any information,” Musk said at the China Development Forum.

Like many other automakers, Tesla cars have several small cameras, mainly located on the exterior of the vehicle, to help guide parking, autopilot and self-driving functions. Most Tesla models also have an interior camera mounted above the rearview mirror that can detect if the driver is looking at the road, looking down at their lap or wearing sunglasses.

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The Wall Street Journal noted that China has become a core market for Tesla. In 2020, the company sold more than 135,000 vehicles there, about 30% of its global total.

Tesla has also come under scrutiny in the US over its use of in-cabin cameras, despite the fact that owners must opt in for the system to work.  

In the US, Tesla has started using vehicles’ internal cameras to monitor its full self-driving beta testers and Tesla owners who have volunteered to test the company’s driver-assist functions


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