Police force’s Tesla fleet drives into problems

Basel's police Tesla fleet has not yet entered operational service. © Keystone / Georgios Kefalas

Canton Basel City’s new fleet of seven Tesla electric police cars has hit another bump along an increasingly pot-holed road. A parliamentary commission in the northern canton has ruled that the cars were bought “unlawfully” because public tender rules were not observed.

This content was published on February 15, 2019 - 16:24

Basel City’s justice department did not invite other car manufacturers to bid for the contract, which eventually cost nearly CHF1 million ($1 million), the commission said on Thursday. It is the latest setback for the fleet before it has even entered operational service.

Justice department head Baschi Dürr admitted that not all the documentation of the deal had been given to the investigating commission, but otherwise defended the decision to buy Teslas.

“We’ve been talking about the Tesla for over a year now and nobody has yet been able to present another fully electric car that meets the requirements,” he said in a 20 Minuten newspaper articleExternal link.

The purchase was originally condemned last year by some local parliamentarians for being too expensive. At CHF140,000 each, the Teslas cost considerably more than existing police vehicles. But the police force said the extra cost could be recovered via lower fuel and maintenance costs. The lower environmental impact of the electric fleet was also a consideration in the purchase.

A row then erupted in December, shortly after 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.

The canton’s data protection officer said the cars should not be put on the road until this shortfall had been addressed.

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