China says automakers must have licences for mapping data in smart cars

China has said that automakers must apply for licences to collect geographic data using sensors on their intelligent vehicles, highlighting Beijing’s security concerns about the growing sophistication of smart cars’ mapping capabilities.

The statement, a clarification of China’s surveying and mapping law, reflects regulators efforts to prevent any scenario where highly-detailed visual data collected by smart cars could fall into the hands of hostile foreign actors.

The rules, effective since publication, could further complicate the local operations of foreign companies like Tesla (TSLA.O), 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.