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Data protection Controversial Tesla police car fleet ready for patrol duty

Tesla X 100D, part of the fleet

A Tesla X 100D, part of the new fleet, as seen in December 2018

(© Keystone / Georgios Kefalas)

The police force of the Swiss canton of Basel City will be putting two of its new Tesla electric cars on patrol from this weekend, following a row over the vehicles’ purchase and data protection issues.

The canton’s justice and police department said on Fridayexternal link that two of the seven cars ordered were ready for use and that police officers had completed their training.

In addition, the canton’s data protection officer Beat Rudin had completed his final reportexternal link on the high-tech, specially-adapted vehicles, with the force taking on board all eight of Rudin’s recommendations. This included replacing the Tesla SIM card with a Swiss-made one.

Rudin had originally said that the vehicles should not be used until data protection issues had been addressed. In a statement on Friday, he clarified that he had no further objection to the vehicles being used, should the eight  recommendations be adopted.

Controversy

In March 2018, the force announced that it was ordering seven Tesla cars as emergency response vehicles. At CHF140,000 ($137,000) each, the Teslas cost considerably more than existing police vehicles, and some local parliamentarians condemned the move as too expensive.

But the force countered there would be lower fuel and maintenance costs, and that the environmental impact would be lower.

A row then erupted in December, shortly after some of the cars arrived, over data protection. The Tesla artificial intelligence system sends out data, such as the position of vehicles. The police force was sharply criticised for not conducting an adequate assessment of data protection risks.

Misgivings again surfaced in February this year after a parliamentary commission in the northern canton ruled that the cars were bought “unlawfully” because public tender rules were not observed.

In total, three of the seven cars have now arrived in Basel. One will be kept in reserve. The other four are due to arrive by the end of the year, the justice and police department said.

Keystone-SDA/swissinfo.ch/ilj

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