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Tesla sets up its first local data centre in China
Tesla vehicles are parked outside a building at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing. Photo: Reuters.

Electric carmaker to store information collected from users locally in reaction to fears over US espionage

(AF) US car manufacturer Tesla on Tuesday announced it had set up a data centre in mainland China to store the information collected from local users, following a backlash over privacy and national security in the world’s biggest electric vehicle (EV) market.

Chinese authorities in March restricted the use of Tesla cars by the military and employees of state-owned companies over concerns that images from cameras on the vehicles could be transmitted to the US, fuelling spying fears.

Tesla has denied that its vehicles could be used for espionage.

“We have set up a data centre in China to locally store data and we will add more,” the company said in a statement posted on China’s Twitter-like social media platform Weibo. It also promised to “take care of the security” of that data.

Tesla sells one out of every four of its cars in China and has invested in a wholly owned factory in Shanghai that has allowed it to accelerate to the head of the pack in China’s huge EV market.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN

A customer’s high-profile protest at the Shanghai Auto Show last month was a cause for concern in a market where manufacturers cannot afford to trip up given the increasing competition.

Although the customer was detained over social-nuisance charges, officials – and the public – criticised the US company for its perceived high-handedness and lack of interest in the customer’s claims.

Tesla has pledged to cooperate with Chinese authorities to settle the dispute with the customer, who claimed she was nearly killed when the brakes on her Tesla malfunctioned.

Last week, Tesla said a braking system functioned normally in another crash in an underground garage in Hangzhou. A Tesla model 3 hit a wall in the garage, and the owner of the vehicle blamed brake malfunction.

But Tesla said its investigation found no abnormality in the braking system and noted the garage floor was covered in rainwater.

With reporting by Agence France-Presse

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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