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Musk proposed launching Robotaxis in China for FSD approval

Tesla chief Elon Musk has proposed testing Tesla’s fully autonomous driving (FSD) system in China by deploying it in the country’s robo-taxi, according to Chinese state media published on Wednesday.

Musk made his proposal during a surprise trip to China last month, during which he met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

Chinese authorities have agreed to offer partial support for Musk’s plan, saying Beijing “welcomes Tesla to do robotaxi testing in the country” and hopes it can “set a good example,” according to the Chinese media outlet. State China Daily. reported citing sources.

Also on AF: Tesla’s electric vehicle sales in China down 18% year-on-year in April

However, authorities have not yet approved the widespread use of fully autonomous driving (FSD) functions, the newspaper adds.

Before FSD is fully rolled out, Tesla still needs Chinese approval to collect and transfer the data Tesla cars need to train their driver-assistance features. The newspaper adds that this issue was not discussed in detail during Musk’s visit.

A person briefed on the matter told Reuters that Tesla was seeking to apply to launch robotaxi tests in Shanghai, where the company’s largest factory in the world is located.

Early last month, Musk announced on Twitter his plans to unveil Tesla Robotaxi on August 8. He later added that he chose the date partly “because 8/8 is a lucky number in China.”

China has been at the forefront of developing self-driving cars, and companies such as Baidu and Toyota-backed Pony.ai have launched robotaxi services in limited test areas in several cities.

China is also the world’s largest market for electric vehicles – and a key market for Tesla – making it crucial for Musk to gain permission to roll out its self-driving features in the country.

Industry analysts say China could still approve Tesla’s deployment of FSD for a specific purpose to trigger the “catfish effect” – a race between local rivals to innovate and deploy better autonomous driving technologies.

Baidu deal ‘won’t contribute to FSD deployment’

The China Daily report also clarified that Tesla’s recent deal with Chinese internet giant Baidu was not linked to the automaker’s efforts to launch its FSD system in the country.

During Musk’s trip to Beijing, Tesla had reached an agreement with Baidu to use its mapping license for data collection on Chinese public roads.

People with knowledge of the matter said at the time that the deal was a step toward deploying FSD in China.

But citing a source close to Baidu, the China Daily report said the deal only meant that the accuracy of Baidu’s maps provided to Tesla would be improved.

This has no direct connection with the FSD, the newspaper specifies.

Tesla has been partnering with Baidu since 2020. The automaker has already integrated Baidu’s navigation map into its vehicles in China, China Daily noted.

  • Reuters, with additional contributions from Vishakha Saxena

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Vishakha Saxena

Vishakha Saxena is a Multimedia and Social Media Editor at Asia Financial. She has worked as a digital journalist since 2013 and is an experienced multimedia writer and producer. As a trader and investor, she has a keen interest in the new economy, emerging markets and the intersections of finance and society. You can write to him at (protected email)