Chinese electric vehicles, and their connected technology, are the next target of US lawmakers

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin will introduce a bill to Congress that would limit or ban the introduction of connected vehicles built by Chinese companies if they are determined to pose a threat to national security.

The bill comes as the US-China trade war escalates following the Biden administration’s decision to quadruple import duties on Chinese electric vehicles to 100%.

Chinese electric vehicle makers have yet to make significant inroads in the United States, as they have in Europe. The goal of the bill appears to stop manufacturers before they can flood the U.S. market with smart, cheap cars.

Slotkin, a former CIA analyst and Pentagon official, has repeatedly warned Congress about the threat posed by connected vehicles made in China. In a House speech earlier this month, Slotkin described how the Chinese government has heavily subsidized its auto industry to sell low-cost, advanced electric vehicles equipped with sensors like lidar, radar and cameras that are capable of collecting and transmit data to Chinese authorities.

“If allowed into our markets, Chinese connected vehicles offer the Chinese government a trove of valuable intelligence about the United States, including the potential to gather information about our military bases, critical infrastructure such as the power grid and traffic systems. , and even locate specific places. American leaders if they wish,” Slotkin said in a statement released Wednesday. “China has a rapidly growing share of the connected car market in Europe and Mexico, so now is the time to make sure our defenses are up before these vehicles enter the U.S. market.”

Last week, provisions Slotkin championed, such as a ban on connected Chinese vehicles on U.S. military bases and a ban on the Department of Defense’s acquisition of Chinese-made lidar, were included in the U.S.’s annual defense spending bill. American government.

Slotkin’s bill, called the Connected Vehicle National Security Review Act, if passed, would not only overhaul electric vehicles but also autonomous vehicles. Several audiovisual companies with ties to China, such as WeRide and Pony.ai, have active permits to conduct tests in California. Alphabet’s Waymo also has a deal with Chinese startup Zeekr to produce purpose-built robotaxis.

Waymo did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment on this bill.

When it comes to electric vehicles, Volvo and Polestar have a presence in the United States and are both owned by the Chinese company Geely Automotive. The majority of Volvo vehicles are assembled in Sweden and the next generation of Volvo vehicles for the North American market will be manufactured at a newly opened plant in Ridgeville, South Carolina.

A Polestar spokesperson told TechCrunch that it does not share personal data of North American and European customers with China and that, since the automaker is based in Sweden, it must comply with GDPR laws.

Still, this bill would not free cars made in friendly countries or domestically from scrutiny. If passed, the bill would give the Commerce Department authority to review any sale, import or other transaction involving a connected vehicle “designed, built or supplied” by any company that is related to China or a country of interest.

The bill takes traditional trade restraint tools, such as tariffs, a step further by potentially banning U.S.-bound connected vehicles made by Chinese companies in countries like Mexico. This could be aimed at automakers like BYD, whose CEO Stella Li said in February that the automaker was looking for a plant in Mexico.

The bill would also give clear legal power to the Commerce Department and other federal agencies to strengthen national security protections and prevent future administrations from rolling back these protections, a move Slotkin said is not hypothetical.

Slotkin pointed to then-President Donald Trump’s order that would have given the United States authority to address security risks from social media platform TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance. President Joe Biden signed a bill in April that would ban TikTok unless ByteDance sold the app. Trump, who is running for re-election in November, has since backed down from his previous position and even opposed efforts to force a sale.

The heightened U.S. concerns about China’s data capacity come as Beijing relaxes rules governing cross-border data flows. Tesla is reportedly trying to take advantage of this to get the green light to send data from its own connected cars to the US to train Tesla’s “fully autonomous driving” algorithms.

Slotkin’s bill also comes as the Commerce Department promises to issue a ruling on Chinese connected vehicles later this year, following the Biden administration’s February launch of an investigation into national security risks. of said vehicles.

Slotkin plans to introduce the bill after June 3, once Congress returns to session after the Memorial Day recess.

This article has been updated to include comments from Polestar. It was originally published at 8:55 a.m. PT.

Leave a Comment