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Wednesday, April 24 2024
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US Investigates Chinese Cars for National Data Security Risks

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The White House announced on Thursday that the United States is initiating an inquiry into potential national security risks associated with Chinese vehicle imports, considering the implications of “connected” car technology. According to the White House, the investigation by the US Commerce Department is crucial due to concerns regarding the significant data collection by vehicles and their use of cameras and sensors, which could pose risks to US infrastructure.

The investigation will also explore the possibility of remote piloting or disabling of vehicles, particularly autonomous ones. President Joe Biden emphasized the importance of preventing potential flooding of the US market with Chinese vehicles, stating his commitment to safeguarding national security.

White House officials cautioned that it’s premature to determine specific actions and emphasized the wide legal powers available to the US government to address such concerns, which could have substantial implications. Biden characterized this effort as an unprecedented action to protect national security from vehicles originating from countries like China.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation, representing major automakers, stressed the need for collaboration between the Commerce Department and the auto industry to assess potential actions. They recommended targeting transactions that pose risks to economic and national security while avoiding unintended consequences on advanced vehicle safety technologies.

While the number of Chinese-made light-duty vehicles imported into the US is relatively low, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo highlighted the proactive approach of the administration to prevent potential threats to privacy and national security before they become widespread.

Chinese electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers have focused on other markets like Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, with BYD, the world’s largest EV maker, expressing no intention to enter the US market. However, they are exploring opportunities in Mexico, aiming to establish production facilities.

The Chinese foreign ministry defended Chinese cars’ global popularity as a result of market competition and technological innovation, urging the US to respect fair competition principles and avoid discriminatory practices.

Critics argue against singling out vehicles from a specific country for restrictions on intelligent sensors, emphasizing the importance of fairness in regulations.

In addition to the vehicle investigation, the Biden administration is contemplating imposing tariffs on Chinese-made vehicles and facing pressure to restrict Chinese EV imports from Mexico. This follows previous measures aimed at reducing dependence on Chinese EV battery supply chains.

Last December, China criticized US actions for violating international trade rules and disrupting global supply chains. Concerns about Chinese companies handling sensitive data during autonomous vehicle testing in the US were also raised by lawmakers.

The Commerce Department will seek public input for 60 days before considering regulatory measures to address concerns, including licensing software in US-assembled vehicles. This initiative aligns with previous actions restricting Chinese telecom companies’ access to the US market and designating certain entities as threats.

The White House underscored the asymmetry in market access, pointing out restrictions faced by US and other foreign automakers in China. Biden questioned why Chinese connected vehicles should operate in the US without safeguards, echoing broader concerns about data security.

China has been tightening data management regulations, requiring industries to seek approval before transferring data abroad, including recent proposals to limit smart vehicles’ direct data transfer abroad in favor of domestic cloud services.

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