Elon Musk floated robotaxi launch in China, Chinese state media says

Tesla CEO last month made an unannounced visit to Beijing for talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

Tesla's Elon Musk has made multiple trips to China in recent years [Tingshu Wang/Reuters]

Elon Musk suggested testing Tesla’s full self-driving feature in China by deploying it in robotaxis, Chinese state media has reported.

During Musk’s visit to China last month, officials told the Tesla CEO that Beijing “welcomes Tesla to do some robotaxi tests in the country” and hopes it can “set a good example”, the state-backed China Daily reported on Wednesday, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Chinese authorities, however, did not immediately approve Tesla’s widespread use of the Full Self-Driving (FSD) feature, the newspaper said.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The China Daily report follows an unannounced visit by Musk to Beijing late last month, during which he held talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

During his visit, Musk received an endorsement of Tesla’s data-security procedures from a top Chinese auto association and sealed an agreement with Chinese tech giant Baidu to use its mapping licence for data collection on China’s public roads.

Tesla still needs to get approval from Chinese regulators to collect and transfer data used to train its software before it can fully roll out FSD, which the China Daily said was not discussed on Musk’s visit.

Tesla operates its biggest manufacturing plant outside the United States in Shanghai, where about half of its vehicles are produced.

Musk has shifted Tesla’s focus away from making affordable electric cars towards burgeoning technology, such as autonomous driving software, robotaxis and humanoid robots.

The electric car maker is struggling with falling car sales amid fierce competition from Chinese brands such as BYD.

Tesla’s vehicle deliveries fell by 8.5 percent in the first quarter, contributing to a 40 percent slide in its stock price since July. The company last month reported profits of $1.1bn in the first quarter, down from $2.51bn a year ago.

Chinese auto giant BYD dethroned Tesla as the world’s biggest electric vehicle maker in the last quarter of 2023, although the Austin, Texas-based company reclaimed the title in the first three months of this year.

Musk has made multiple trips to China in recent years, including a visit in June last year.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies