Autonomous vehicles join the list of US national security threats

Amid growing concern Regarding China’s growing international data-gathering apparatus, a newly divided US Congress is under renewed scrutiny for the possibility that imported Chinese technology could be a Trojan horse.

In a letter to the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, shared exclusively with WIRED, Representative August Fluger asks some tough questions about whether Washington is really prepared for the security threats posed by the arrival of Chinese-made smart and autonomous vehicles (AVs). ) in the United States.

“I remain concerned that the lack of US oversight of AV technology opens the door for a foreign nation to spy on American soil, as Chinese companies could potentially transfer sensitive information to the People’s Republic of China,” Pfluger wrote.

While AV technology may be years away from widespread commercial use, pilot projects are already on the road around the world. Earlier this year, there were more than 1,000 AutoX autonomous taxis on the roads in California. AutoX, a Chinese startup backed by one of the communist country’s largest state-owned car companies, was approved by California in 2020.

Since American regulators green-lighted those test projects, Plueger wrote, “there is a serious lack of oversight over their handling of the data.”

Earlier this year, WIRED reported on mounting national security issues raised by Chinese-made vehicles. The vast amount of data collected by these vehicles could give adversary states an unprecedented advantage over the United States and other Western nations. Beijing has already pioneered the use of big-data analytics to identify dissidents at home, and concerns have grown that these techniques could be deployed abroad.

Pfluger submitted a detailed list of questions to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which regulates the use of AVs, and asked the regulator to explain how it assessed the national security risks posed by these Chinese companies.

“Has NHTSA acted independently, or in cooperation with cities or other local governments, to limit or prevent Chinese-owned companies from collecting sensitive information from American infrastructure, including information on sensitive government or military facilities, and subsequently sharing such information abroad? do?” Pfluger wrote.

China certainly has those concerns about American-made smart and electric cars. Earlier this year, for example, Beijing imposed strict restrictions on where Teslas could drive between high-level Communist Party meetings, particularly around military installations.

Pfluger highlighted in his letter that China “could use autonomous and connected vehicles as a way to incorporate their systems and technologies into our country’s infrastructure.” The US, like most of its allies, has already banned Chinese corporate giant Huawei from building 5G infrastructure, but these next-generation cars will have access to an unprecedented number of emails, messages and phone calls, and will effectively do away with cameras. , capable of imaging an array of critical infrastructure.

As Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told a House committee last week, “there’s a danger that nation-states have communications infrastructure in their hands that doesn’t protect liberties and rights like ours.” FBI Director Christopher Wray warned that China has stolen more data from the United States than any other country combined, with “increasingly sophisticated, large-scale cyber espionage operations against various US industries, organizations and dissidents.”