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China Says Licences Needed for Mapping by ‘Smart Cars’

The surveying and mapping law shows Beijing’s concern over the mapping capabilities of “smart cars” and fear that data they collect may end up in the hands of hostile rivals.

Tesla delivered over 100,000 EVs in China in November, Xinhua says.
Tesla's China-made Model 3 vehicles are seen during a delivery event at its factory in Shanghai. File photo: Reuters.


China has said carmakers must apply for licences to collect geographic data using sensors on their vehicles.

The warning is an indication of concern in Beijing over the growing sophistication of “smart cars” such as Tesla and their mapping capabilities.

The statement is a clarification of China‘s surveying and mapping law and reflects regulators’ efforts to prevent highly-detailed visual data collected by smart cars falling into the hands of hostile foreign actors.

The rules, effective since publication, could further complicate the local operations of foreign companies like Tesla, which already have to seek partnerships with Chinese firms when it comes to collecting and processing such data.

Automakers and developers of autonomous driving software should either apply for mapping licences or ask a licensed company to collect, store, transform and process geographic data, according to the statement published on Tuesday by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

The official newspaper of the ministry said that the rapid development of China‘s intelligent and connected vehicle industry meant a “safety bottom line” had to be drawn for the “real-time high-precision coordinates, high-definition images and other data support” on which it is highly dependent.


ALSO SEE:  China to Ban Tesla for Two Months at Senior Leader Meet Site


Mapping Licences

The global market for the intelligent and connected vehicle industry is projected to reach $470 billion in 2030, Wan Gang, vice-chairman of China‘s national policy-making advisory body, told a conference in Beijing on Saturday.

Vehicles such as self-driving cars need to collect large amounts of geographical data in order to create high-precision maps that are essential for accurate and safe navigation.

China has so far issued mapping licences to more than 20 companies including search engine giant Baidu and Tencent-backed mapping company Navinfo.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard





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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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