Elon Musk secures deals for self-driving Teslas in China

Tesla finalized a series of arrangements with regulators and a Chinese artificial intelligence company during a quick trip to Beijing on Sunday and Monday, with the carmaker's Chief Executive Elon Musk clearing the way for the company to offer its state-of-the-art self-driving car. Software in cars in China.

Tesla has faced two hurdles to deliver its latest level of autonomous driving, which it calls supervised full self-driving. It needs approval from Chinese regulators, who have questioned whether the company took enough precautions to protect data. And it requires access to high-resolution maps of the entire country.

Mr. The timing of Musk's visit is remarkable. He arrived in China days after discovering self-driving technology and artificial intelligence critical to Tesla's future. Tesla is not just a car company, Mr. Musk told investors last week, “We want to be considered an AI robotics company.”

In a statement released on Friday, Mr. Giving Musk a much-needed win.

Mr. Musk flew to Beijing on his private jet on Sunday morning and immediately met with Premier Li Qiang, China's No. 2 official after Xi Jinping. Mr. Li is a longtime ally of Mr. Musk, who helped pave the way for Tesla's construction of what is now the company's largest car assembly plant when he served as Communist Party secretary in Shanghai.

The government-linked China Automobile Manufacturers Association later announced that Tesla and five other Chinese automakers had received approval from authorities and the association for data protection precautions in dozens of car models. The rules prevent automakers in China from using software that recognizes anyone's face outside of their vehicles, and include other restrictions. Self-driving systems use cameras to guide vehicles.

Cars include Tesla's Model 3 and Model Y. The five Chinese manufacturers include BYD, China's dominant electric vehicle company and Tesla's primary global rival, and Neo, a longtime player in China's auto industry.

Tesla has been operating a data center in Shanghai for the past three years that handles extensive data collected as cars sold in China drive the country's roads. China has tightened its data protection regulations in recent years to tightly control information leaving the country.

Tesla has also separately struck a deal with Baidu, one of China's biggest tech companies, to obtain high-resolution maps of roadways, according to a person familiar with the deal who was not authorized to speak publicly. Tesla cars in China have used Baidu Maps for four years for basic navigation, guiding drivers where to turn, but never before had access to high-resolution maps.

Baidu is one of about 20 Chinese companies that have the necessary credentials from the Chinese government to access high-resolution mapping data. Automakers will either have to partner with one of these companies or, as Tesla has done so far, rely heavily on the cameras in their vehicles to generate their own maps.

Details on what Tesla agreed to do in exchange for the approvals were not immediately available Monday. China has a long history of urging multinational companies to share substantial technology in exchange for access to its market. But the Chinese government insists it does not force foreign companies to hand over their trade secrets, and has assured the Trump administration it will not.

Tesla shares rose on Monday on news of the approvals in China. The company reported last week that its profit fell 55 percent in the first three months of the year, while its revenue fell 9 percent. A few days ago, Tesla announced it was laying off 10 percent of its global workforce, or about 14,000 employees.

As Chinese automakers introduce more of their own electric car models this year, Tesla is doubling down on self-driving capabilities by putting more features into cars than other automakers, despite concerns from regulators and safety experts about the technology's ability.

Tesla already offers what it calls “supervised fully self-driving” in the United States. The company charges $99 a month to upgrade Tesla cars from its Autopilot or advanced autonomous driver-assistance systems.

The top traffic safety regulator in the United States said Friday it is investigating the recall of Tesla's automated driver assistance system because the company is not doing enough to ensure drivers are attentive when using the technology.

The regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said there was At least 29 fatal accidents January 2018 to August 2023 involves autopilot and fully self-driving. The analysis did not assess whether the number of deaths would have been higher or lower if humans had driven without those systems in use. Technology used by other carmakers does a better job of making sure drivers are paying attention, according to the Highway Safety Agency.

Tesla's use of the term Autopilot “may lead drivers to believe that Autopilot has more capabilities than it does and may invite drivers to over-rely on the automation,” the company said.

The agency is also investigating two fatal crashes involving Ford Motor's Bluecruise system, which allows drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel on many U.S. highways.

China is also dying from mistakes made by self-driving cars now offered by several Chinese companies and Tesla. But accidents involving human driver error are often the subject of viral videos in China, feeding the popular notion that self-driving cars may be safer.

Joy Tang Research contributed.

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