Big Brother is watching Chinese EV drivers.
Ever get the feeling that someone's watching you? Well they very well may be. Especially if you're driving an electric vehicle in China.
According to the Associated Press, quasi-governmental agencies in the so-called People's Republic are tracking alternative-energy vehicles through a variety of parameters, including their location, make, model, mileage, and battery-charge levels... all in real time. But the information isn't being obtained covertly. It's being provided by their manufacturers – both domestic automakers and by foreign automakers (like Tesla, General Motors, and BMW) that are eager to do business in the country.
Data collected by the automakers is transmitted to local monitoring agencies like the Shanghai Electric Vehicle Public Data Collecting, Monitoring and Research Center, which tracks over 222,000 vehicles (most of them electric passenger cars) in Shanghai. The stated purpose is to help plan infrastructure requirements and to enhance public security. But the data is shared with a national monitoring center in Beijing, and can be shared with law enforcement on request.
"The government wants to know what people are up to at all times," said Maya Wang, senior China specialist at Human Rights Watch. "Tracking vehicles is one of the main focuses of their mass surveillance."
Though some foreign manufacturers initially resisted sharing the information, AP reports that many have acquiesced to the requirement as the "cost of doing business" in China, one of the largest and fastest-growing market for new cars in the world.
"The automakers consider the data a precious resource," a government consultant told AP on condition of anonymity. "They gave you dozens of reasons why they can't give you the data. They give you dozens of excuses. Then we offer the incentives. Then they want to give us the data because it's part of their profit." The market for such data is estimated to be worth $750 billion by 2030.