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Technology

China pushes homegrown GPS for connected cars

Beidou system touted as tech rivalry with America heats up

Stars and other heavenly bodies adorn a tunnel ahead of the 12th China Satellite Navigation Expo this past May in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province. The Beidou satellite navigation system was completed in 2020.   © Getty Images

BEIJING -- China is encouraging carmakers to adopt the domestically developed Beidou satellite navigation system in their automated vehicles and other connected cars, apparently to steer them away from the U.S. government's GPS.

The advice comes in a new Ministry of Industry and Information Technology notice that calls on carmakers to strengthen data management. They should use a reliable satellite positioning system, the notice says, recommending Beidou for this purpose.

But because Beidou, which was completed in 2020, has met with only a lukewarm reception, many believe that this has stopped short of a mandate. GPS is widely used in China, particularly by foreign automakers.

The Chinese authorities are urging a broad range of industries to adopt Beidou, touting it as being more accurate than GPS thanks to a larger satellite network. But some businesses are hesitant because Beidou is "not user-friendly," in the words of a local internet company executive. The government now apparently wants to get the ball rolling with the auto industry.

A BMW autonomous test vehicle at a showroom in Beijing.   © Reuters

The ministry also calls on carmakers to create a system to categorize automobile data by importance and securely manage personal information as well as important national security data. Automakers will have to store data within China or submit to advance screening if they seek to transfer it abroad.

The measures build on the cybersecurity law that took effect in 2017 and the data security law that will take effect this September.

Automakers also should put systems in place to protect internet-based automobile operations and should securely update vehicle software online, the notice says.

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