10 top gadgets of 2018

Technology advances quickly, and it can be hard to keep up on which gadgets and gizmos made the biggest splash. Fortunately, looking back on 2018, a few big themes developed — televisions became smarter, speakers responded to voice commands. Another interesting trend? Prices became a bit more reasonable for gadgets like the Apple iPhone XR. … Continue reading “10 top gadgets of 2018”

Technology advances quickly, and it can be hard to keep up on which gadgets and gizmos made the biggest splash. Fortunately, looking back on 2018, a few big themes developed — televisions became smarter, speakers responded to voice commands. Another interesting trend? Prices became a bit more reasonable for gadgets like the Apple iPhone XR. Here are the top picks in several categories.

1. Phone: Apple iPhone XR ($749)

Apple made waves this year by releasing three different phones (including the iPhone XS and CS Max with an OLED display), but the iPhone XR with an LCD display is arguably the best option. At $749, it still has an extremely fast A12 Bionic processor and a high-end camera.

2. TV: Samsung Q9FN 65-inch ($2,999)

Televisions are smarter than ever. The Samsung Q9FN can read your Wi-Fi settings and password from your Android phone, and it senses when you have an Xbox One connected and can adjust the display for 4K resolution and the best gaming color mode.

3. Tablet: Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch display ($999)

The big news with the Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch released this fall is that it uses a processor that is more powerful than some laptops, including Apple’s own MacBook line. Apps like Adobe Lightroom CC for iPad and Affinity Photo handle high-res images with ease.

4. Laptop: Dell XPS 13 ($850)

At just 2.67 pounds, the Dell XPS 13 is lighter than many tablets (including the Microsoft Surface line) but runs on a screaming fast Intel Core i7 processor. The claim to fame? Dell has figured out how to make the display run all the way to the edges.

5. Desktop: HP EliteOne 1000 G2 34-in Curved All-in-One ($1,794)

For productivity gurus, a curved wide screen like the HP Elite means you have more room for tabs in a browser, and more screen real estate for your apps. It’s also a brilliant gaming desktop and ideal for Skype sessions with a pop-up high-res webcam.

6. Earbuds: Jabra Evolve 65t ($329)

For those who have not quite accepted the reality of using wireless earbuds yet and prefer a wired connection, it’s time to reconsider. The Jabra Evolve 65t sound as good if not better, and have the added benefit of one-touch access to a voice assistant.

7. Drone: DJI Mavic Pro ($999)

Drones with fold-up arms became the norm in 2018, and the DJI Mavic Pro is the best of the bunch. It’s also much quieter and smoother during flight. The Mavic captures in 4K video resolution and doesn’t require a complicated setup.

8. Robot: Neato Botvac D7 Connected ($699.99)

The smartest robots let you leave them alone all day for weeks at a time, and they merrily go about their business. Set on a cleaning schedule, the Neato robotic vacuum will do its work without getting stuck or falling down a staircase.

9. Speaker: Sonos Beam ($399)

Speakers finally embraced the concept of voice control in 2018. The Sonos Beam lets you ask Amazon Alexa questions about the weather, but also syncs to the DISH Hopper 3 receiver for changing channels, finding shows, and raising the TV volume.

10. Camera: Nikon Z7 ($3,400)

A great camera, the Nikon Z7 snaps photos lightning fast, even at an athletics event. It uses a new mirrorless technology to capture stunningly crisp photos at 45.7-megapixels, letting in more light than a traditional DSLR.

You can’t hide from Britain’s ‘Long Ranger’ traffic camera

Police have released the first footage from Britain's biggest and newest speed camera – a massive trap dubbed 'The Long Ranger' that snares 1,200 drivers a month.

The clip released by the force shows a white Ford Transit van tailgating a car and in a longer clip a blue car is caught doing the same.

The vehicles were caught on the A417 in Gloucestershire where the Long Ranger is being trialed.

It can be moved around to catch offenders in the act on any road.


It comes as the police have released figures showing that the new camera is making an impact.

In less than a month since it was deployed, well over 1,000 speeding offenses have been recorded with the worst offender clocked at 126 mph.

Tailgating, use of a mobile phone, vehicle plate offenses and failure to use a seatbelt are among the other offenses recorded.

But it has not only been about enforcement. Gloucestershire Police have been on hand to give assistance to 10 drivers who broke down and another 10 who needed help

The operation is centered on the A417/419 which carrying up to 35,000 vehicles a day which links Gloucestershire with neighboring Wiltshire and is a pathway between the M4 and M5 motorways. It also has one of the worst accident records.

1,000 mph car on sale for $313G, needs work

You won’t find a project car like this on Craigslist.

A jet- and rocket-powered supersonic streamliner engineered to go over 1,000 mph is for sale after the project behind it went bankrupt.

The Bloodhound SSC is the result of a decade-long effort to break the existing land speed record of 763 mph, which was set in 1997.

It’s hit 200 mph in testing on an airport runway and was set to go for 600 mph next year on a dry lake bed in South Africa that has been prepped for the attempt.

But the money behind it has dried up, so everything is being liquidated, in pieces if necessary.

Driver Andy Green told the BBC that the car itself can be had for £250,000, or about $313,000, which is less than many supercars.

(Bloodhound SSC)

Unfortunately, it'll take about $33 million and plenty of knowhow to get the car ready to run, but Green (who was the one in the car that did 763 mph) and his team are available for hire if anyone wants to pony up for the whole kit and kaboodle.

"We have basically completed the main structure, the desert is ready, we just need the funding,” Green said.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Mazda has a revolutionary new engine, and it’s not a rotary

The 2020 Mazda 3 unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show is a sleek-looking compact that brings a premium interior to its economy class, but it’s what you can’t see that the company hopes will make it stand out.

(Getty Images)

As with every new Mazda model of late, the new hatchback and sedan are quieter than the ones they replace, as the company looks to shift its products upscale. Mazda Vehicle Dynamics Manager Dave Coleman says it’s the result of a hundred little things that add up to make a big difference.

(Getty Images)

“A lot of hard work, for a lot of little details,” Coleman says. “So many different seals and covers and managing the vibration modes of different parts so they don’t activate each other.”

It’s also the first 3 that will be offered with all-wheel-drive in an effort to enhance its appeal in cold weather regions, but Mazda didn’t leave out the Zoom-Zoom. In addition to a feature on front-wheel-drive models that imperceptibly reduces engine power as the steering wheel is turned to shift weight forward and give the front tires more grip, the all-wheel-drive versions adjust the relative speed of the front and rear wheels to allow the car to rotate more freely.

(Getty Images)

But the 3’s real breakthrough tech is under its hood where an all-new type of engine is set to debut.


Sorry, Mazda fans, it’s not a rotary, although the company does have one of those in the works to use as a range-extending generator in electric cars. Instead it’s a technology that Mazda calls Skyactiv-X, which is an original take on a concept known as Homogenous Charge Combustion Ignition, or HCCI.


Coleman says the idea is to get a gasoline engine to work more like a diesel, where compressed fuel ignites all at once rather than spreading away from a spark, which is less efficient. Gas burns faster than diesel, however, and it’s tough to control its ignition in this kind of engine. So, what Mazda did was design a high-compression (16:1) motor that uses a small spark that goes off just before the fuel would auto-ignite, creating the extra pressure needed to set it off at the right moment.

The lean-running engine is also supercharged to pack as much air into it as possible for and even more efficient burn, especially at full throttle, and Mazda has combined it with a mild-hybrid system that gives the powertrain an electric boost under acceleration. Fuel economy is improved by about 20 percent compared to a conventional gas engine with the same displacement, which in this example is 2.0-liters, according to Coleman.

Unfortunately, American customers will have to wait a little longer to get a Mazda 3 equipped with Skyactiv-X, which is launching first in overseas markets while a conventional 2.5-liter will be the first engine available when the car goes on sale here next spring.


Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

SUVs are so big now that Ford designed a conveyor belt to help load them

Just in time for the holiday season, a Ford patent application has been published for a unique idea that could make loading your SUV much easier: built-in conveyor belts.

They’re integrated into the power third-row seats and deploy as you fold the seatbacks forward. The description explains how the system would be helpful on today’s supersize SUVs, making it easier for owners to pack stuff all the way in and out of reach.

The issue has been addressed before with manual sliding cargo floor trays, like the ones that are available in the Toyota 4Runner and from plenty of aftermarket companies, but none offer the same grocery check-out line effect as Ford’s design.

Ford hasn’t announced any plans to put the feature into production, and there’s no telling if it ever will, but if SUVs get any bigger it may have to one day.


VideoGary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Dubai’s wild new police truck can I.D. pedestrians with facial recognition tech

The Dubai Police Force is famous for the fleet of flashy high-performance supercars it uses for community outreach, but now it is adding trucks equipped with some serious crime-fighting technology.

(W Motors)

The Ghiath was created by homegrown hypercar maker W Motors, which redesigned a Chevy Tahoe with the brand’s signature, aggressive look.

(W Motors)

Along with a stylish bull bar and all of the emergency lighting you’d expect, the SUV features an array of automatic license plate readers and a facial recognition camera mounted on a mast that extends through the roof.

(W Motors)

The camera can track pedestrians around the vehicle and identify anyone who’s been tagged by connecting to a database at the central command center.

(W Motors)

W Motors has not revealed if the Tahoe’s powertrain has been updated, but considering some of the company’s cars have over 800 horsepower, it’s a safe bet the Ghiath has a little something extra under the hood.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Google-owned Waymo launches autonomous ride-hailing service in Phoenix

Google's self-driving car spinoff is finally ready to try to profit from its nearly decade-old technology.

Waymo is introducing a small-scale ride-hailing service in the Phoenix area that will include a human behind the wheel in case the robotic vehicles malfunction.

The service debuting Wednesday marks a significant milestone for Waymo, a company that began as a secretive project within Google in 2009. Since then, its cars have robotically logged more 10 million miles on public roads in 25 cities in California, Arizona, Washington, Michigan and Georgia while getting into only a few accidents — mostly fender benders.

The company is initially operating the new service cautiously, underscoring the challenges still facing its autonomous vehicles as they navigate around vehicles with human drivers that don't always follow the same rules as robots.

The service, dubbed Waymo One, at first will only be available to a couple hundred riders, all of whom had already been participating in a free pilot program that began in April 2017. It will be confined to a roughly 100-square-mile area in and around Phoenix, including the neighboring cities of Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, and Gilbert.

Although Waymo has been driving passengers without any humans behind the wheel in its free pilot program, it decided to be less daring with the new commercial service.

"Self-driving technology is new to many, so we're proceeding carefully with the comfort and convenience of our riders in mind," Waymo CEO John Krafcik wrote in Wednesday blog post heralding the arrival of the new service.

The ride-hailing service is launching in the same area where a car using robotic technology from ride-hailing service Uber hit and killed a pedestrian crossing a darkened street in Tempe, Arizona seven months ago. That fatal collision attracted worldwide attention that cast a pall over the entire self-driving car industry as more people began to publicly question the safety of the vehicles.


"I suspect the Uber fatality has caused Waymo to slow down its pace a bit" and use human safety drivers in its ride-hailing service," said Navigant Research analyst Sam Abuelsamid. "If people keep dying, there will be a bigger backlash against these vehicles."

The Uber robotic car had a human safety driver behind the wheel, but that wasn't enough to prevent its lethal accident in March.

Waymo's self-driving vehicles are still susceptible to glitches, as an Associated Press reporter experienced during a mid-October ride in an autonomous minivan alongside Krafcik near company's Mountain View, California, headquarters.

The minivan performed smoothly, even stopping for a jaywalker, before abruptly pulling to the right side of the road. Ahead was a left-turning FedEx delivery truck. In a digital message to the two human backup drivers, the van said it "detected an issue" and it would connect to a rider support agent. Rider support didn't respond, so they switched to manual mode and returned to Waymo headquarters.

At that time, Krafcik conceded to the AP that Waymo's self-driving vehicles were still encountering occasional problems negotiating left-hand turns at complicated intersections.

"I think the things that humans have challenges with, we're challenged with as well," Krafcik said. "So sometimes unprotected lefts are super challenging for a human, sometimes they're super challenging for us."

Waymo eventually plans to open its new ride-hailing app to all comers in the Phoenix area, although it won't say when. It also wants to expand its service to other cities, but isn't saying where. When that happens, it could pose a threat to Uber and the second most popular U.S. ride-hailing service, Lyft, especially since it should be able charge lower prices without the need to share revenue with a human driver in control at all times.

General Motors also is gearing up to begin offering a ride-hailing service through its Cruise subsidiary under the management of a new CEO, Dan Ammann, who has been the Detroit automaker's No. 2 executive. Cruise plans to start its ride-hailing service at some point next year in at least one U.S. city. Another self-driving car company, Drive.ai, has been giving short-distance rides to all comers within Frisco, Texas and Arlington, Texas since the summer.

Tesla apparently on Autopilot pulled over with drunk, sleeping driver behind the wheel, police say

A Tesla was stopped by police in California early on Friday morning…literally.

The driver in the car had nothing to do with it. In fact, he was allegedly drunk and asleep at the time.

The California Highway Patrol said officers spotted the Tesla Model S cruising along U.S. 101 in Redwood City with what appeared to be a dozing driver behind the wheel.

After following the sedan for about seven miles trying to get him to respond to lights and sirens, the officers guessed that the Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot driver assist system was engaged, so they pulled in front of it and started to slow down, according to a police report.


The sedan did the same, and the two vehicles safely came to a complete stop in the middle of the highway. With some difficulty, police roused the driver, who was identified as Los Altos Planning Commission chair Alexander Samek, and drove him and the Tesla to a nearby gas station where he failed a field sobriety test. Samek was booked on a DUI and released later in the day.

“Just because there is this feature available doesn’t mean they can just completely disregard being in control of the vehicle,“ CHP public information officer Art Montiel told KTVU.

The use of Autopilot in the incident has not yet been confirmed, but the vehicle’s data logs should be able to provide this information to investigators. The system is able to self-steer a Tesla within a lane while maintaining its speed and braking for obstacles, but is supposed to require periodic input from a driver to confirm that they are paying attention to the road. The time between alerts isn’t fixed and varies depending upon conditions. If a driver fails to respond, the system is programmed to bring the vehicle to a stop with the hazard lights on and contact Tesla service, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who tweeted on Sunday that the company is “looking into what happened here.”

Earlier last week, Tesla announced that its cars had been driven over one billion cumulative miles with Autopilot engaged since it was first offered in 2015. The automaker has often touted the system’s safety record, but has updated the driver monitoring feature on several occasions in the wake of a number of high-profile accidents, including a fatal crash that took place in Mountain View, Calif., in March.

Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Trump, GM awkwardly silent on new Cadillac presidential limousine

With its recently announced U.S. plant closures and layoffs, General Motors isn’t exactly on President Trump’s good side these days. Which makes things a little awkward, because he just got one of its latest models.

You might not know that, though, because the all-new presidential limousine hasn’t generated any fanfare – from either side of the strained relationship.

The replacement for the famous Obama-era Cadillac “Beast” first appeared in New York on Sept. 23, when it picked Trump up at the Downtown Manhattan Heliport and took him to Trump Tower, ahead of his appearance at the U.N. General Assembly.


The heavily armored car is the result of a four-year, $15.8 million GM project, and is one of the most high-tech vehicles in the world. The contract reportedly covers a fleet of about a dozen identical vehicles.

But neither Cadillac nor the White House heralded its arrival. Aside from a response to a Fox News question posted to the private Twitter account of GM’s head of product planning and Cadillac, Mark Reuss, said “Very proud of our team. #America #Cadillac,” there hasn’t been a peep from the automaker. And its deployment was only tacitly announced in a U.S. Secret Service post.

Even the Tweeter in Chief, who once commissioned a line of “Trump Edition” Cadillac limousines, hasn’t typed a character about it – even as he has used the platform to berate GM for its recent business decisions.

(Dillinger-Gaines Coachworks)

This is in stark contrast to 2009, when the first-generation Beast was unveiled ahead of its formal debut at Obama’s inauguration with a lengthy press release, accompanied by official photos from GM.

The "Beast" made its public debut on Obama’s innauguration day. (Cadillac)

“As Americans celebrate the inauguration of a new president of the United States next week, another new Cadillac will grace Pennsylvania Avenue to lead the proceedings. President Barack Obama will ride in an all-new Cadillac Presidential Limousine, continuing a long tradition of Cadillac limousines that have served many U.S. presidents,” it read.

“Cadillac is honored to again provide a new Presidential Limousine,” wrote then-Cadillac boss Mark McNabb. “This is a great American tradition that we’re delighted to renew with an all-new car featuring the best of Cadillac’s dramatic design and technology.”

A Cadillac spokesman confirmed the company won’t be putting out similar announcements this time around.

“We are not able to comment. This is all done through the Secret Service,” he said.


But while the technical details of the limousine are top secret, there are no regulations that prevent Cadillac from touting its involvement – as it did the last time. So why isn’t it taking greater advantage?

“The difference between Obama and Trump is the difference between day and night. Generally speaking, being associated with Prez Obama was almost always positive. Being associated with Trump is risky biz,” Michael Bernacci, a marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, wrote in an email.

Sam Abuelsamid, a senior analyst at Navigant Research, agreed.

“I'm actually not at all surprised that GM is keeping a low profile this time,” he said. “Making a big deal about it runs the risk of a backlash from either or both sides of the political spectrum.”

Things are very different over in Russia, where President Putin has been going out of his way to promote his new Aurus limousine, even taking it for a spin himself on a Formula One track.

It’s the flagship of a new brand of luxury vehicles developed by the Russian government for use by officials and sold commercially, possibly to other heads of state.


Trump’s limo is exclusively for use by the executive branch – and isn’t even based on a retail Cadillac model. While it’s been designed to like a sedan, it’s built on a truck chassis and uses the headlights from a Cadillac Escalade. That was also true of the 2009 edition.

“I don't think that there is much of a product halo to be gained from this particular vehicle, since it really doesn't share anything with any production Cadillac,” Abuelsamid said.

Cadillac's U.S. sales are flat this year, and it will be eliminating three of the four existing sedan models by the end of 2019. That would leave it with just one in showrooms,  in a lineup of SUVs. The White House did not respond to a request for comment on this report.


Gary Gastelu is FoxNews.com’s Automotive Editor.

Chinese government’s monitoring of electric cars raises surveillance fears

SHANGHAI – When Shan Junhua bought his white Tesla Model X, he knew it was a fast, beautiful car. What he didn't know is that Tesla constantly sends information about the precise location of his car to the Chinese government.

Tesla is not alone. China has called upon all electric vehicle manufacturers in China to make the same kind of reports — potentially adding to the rich kit of surveillance tools available to the Chinese government as President Xi Jinping steps up the use of technology to track Chinese citizens.

"I didn't know this," said Shan. "Tesla could have it, but why do they transmit it to the government? Because this is about privacy."

More than 200 manufacturers, including Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and U.S.-listed electric vehicle start-up NIO, transmit position information and dozens of other data points to government-backed monitoring centers, The Associated Press has found. Generally, it happens without car owners' knowledge.

The automakers say they are merely complying with local laws, which apply only to alternative energy vehicles. Chinese officials say the data is used for analytics to improve public safety, facilitate industrial development and infrastructure planning, and to prevent fraud in subsidy programs.

But other countries that are major markets for electronic vehicles — the United States, Japan, across Europe — do not collect this kind of real-time data.

And critics say the information collected in China is beyond what is needed to meet the country's stated goals. It could be used not only to undermine foreign carmakers' competitive position, but also for surveillance — particularly in China, where there are few protections on personal privacy. Under the leadership of Xi Jinping, China has unleashed a war on dissent, marshalling big data and artificial intelligence to create a more perfect kind of policing, capable of predicting and eliminating perceived threats to the stability of the ruling Communist Party.

There is also concern about the precedent these rules set for sharing data from next-generation connected cars, which may soon transmit even more personal information.

"You're learning a lot about people's day-to-day activities and that becomes part of what I call ubiquitous surveillance, where pretty much everything that you do is being recorded and saved and potentially can be used in order to affect your life and your freedom," said Michael Chertoff, who served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush and recently wrote a book called "Exploding Data."

Chertoff said global automakers should be asking themselves tough questions. "If what you're doing is giving a government of a more authoritarian country the tools to have massive surveillance, I think then companies have to ask themselves, 'Is this really something we want to do in terms of our corporate values, even if it means otherwise forgoing that market?'"



The Shanghai Electric Vehicle Public Data Collecting, Monitoring and Research Center sits in a grey tower in suburban Jiading district. One floor up from the cafeteria, a wall-sized screen glows with dots, each representing a single vehicle coursing along Shanghai's roads to create a massive real-time map that could reveal where people live, shop, work, and worship.

Click a dot at random, and up pops a window with a number that identifies each individual vehicle, along with its make and model, mileage and battery charge.

All told, the screen exhibits data from over 222,000 vehicles in Shanghai, the vast majority of them passenger cars.

"We can provide a lot of data from consumers to the government to help them improve policy and planning," said Ding Xiaohua, deputy director of the center, a non-profit that is tightly aligned with and funded by the government.

According to national specifications published in 2016, electric vehicles in China transmit data from the car's sensors back to the manufacturer. From there, automakers send at least 61 data points, including location and details about battery and engine function to local centers like the one Ding oversees in Shanghai.

Data also flows to a national monitoring center for new energy vehicles run by the Beijing Institute of Technology, which pulls information from more than 1.1 million vehicles across the country, according to the National Big Data Alliance of New Energy Vehicles. The national monitoring center declined to respond to questions.

Those numbers are about to get much bigger. Though electric vehicle sales accounted for just 2.6 percent of the total last year, policymakers have said they'd like new energy vehicles to account for 20 percent of total sales by 2025. Starting next year, all automakers in China must meet production minimums for new energy vehicles, part of Beijing's aggressive effort to reduce dependence on foreign energy sources and place itself at the forefront of a growing global industry.

The Chinese government has shown its interest in tracking vehicles.

"The government wants to know what people are up to at all times and react in the quickest way possible," said Maya Wang, a senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch. "There is zero protection against state surveillance."

"Tracking vehicles is one of the main focuses of their mass surveillance," she added.

Last year, authorities in Xinjiang, a restive region in western China that has become a laboratory for China's surveillance state, ordered residents to install GPS devices so their vehicles could be tracked, according to official media. This summer the Ministry of Public Security, a police agency, began to roll out a system to track vehicles using windshield radio frequency chips that can identify cars as they pass roadside reading devices.

Ding insisted that the electric vehicle monitoring program is not designed to facilitate state surveillance, though he said data could be shared with government public security organs, if a formal request is made. The center said it has not shared information with police, prosecutors or courts, but has used the data to assist a government investigation of a vehicle fire.

There is a privacy firewall built into the system. The monitoring center has each car's unique vehicle identification number, but to link that number with the personal details of the car owner, it must go through the automaker — a step it has taken in the past. Chinese law enforcement can also independently link the vehicle identification number with the car owner's personal information.

"To speak bluntly, the government doesn't need to surveil through a platform like ours," Ding said. He said he believed the security forces "must have their own ways to monitor suspects," as other governments do.



Many vehicles in the U.S., Europe and Japan transmit position information back to automakers, who feed it to car-tracking apps, maps that pinpoint nearby amenities and emergency services providers. But the data stops there. Government or law enforcement agencies would generally only be able to access personal vehicle data in the context of a specific criminal investigation and in the U.S. would typically need a court order, lawyers said.

Automakers initially resisted sharing information with the Shanghai monitoring center; then the government made transmitting data a prerequisite for getting incentives.

"The automakers consider the data a precious resource," said a government consultant who helped evaluate the policy and spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues. "They gave you dozens of reasons why they can't give you the data. They give you dozens of excuses. Then we offer the incentives. Then they want to give us the data because it's part of their profit."

There was concern that data pulled from electric vehicles might reveal proprietary information about, for example, how hybrids switch between gas and battery power, and eventually set automakers up for commercial competition with a Chinese government entity. As cars become more connected, carmakers are looking to tap new revenue streams built on data — a market McKinsey estimated could be worth $750 billion by 2030.

Ding said a Tesla executive came to Shanghai and grilled him about the rules. "The first question is who are you, the second question is why you collect this data, and the third question is how to protect the privacy of the users," Ding said.

Tesla declined to comment.

Ding said confidentiality agreements bar the data center from sharing proprietary information.

Still, he is open about his commercial ambition. He'd like to wean the center from government funding and make money from the data, without infringing on anyone's privacy or intellectual property. "We have done some explorations," he said. "But there is still a distance from truly monetizing it."



The Chinese government's ability to grab data as it flows from cars gives its academics and policymakers an edge over competing nations. China tends to view technology development as a key competitive resource. Though global automakers have received billions in incentives and subsidies from U.S., European and Japanese governments, they are contributing data to the Chinese government that ultimately serves Beijing's strategic interests.

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory began a nationwide study of how electric vehicle owners drive and charge their cars. Participants gave explicit written consent to allow the government laboratory to collect their data, and even then it wasn't delivered in real time, said John Smart, who leads the center's advanced vehicles group. Instead, the team got historical data on a weekly basis. Cars were assigned random numbers for the study, so owners remained anonymous.

Nothing of its kind has been done since in the U.S., Smart said.

"The cost is very high to collect data," he explained. "The government hasn't felt the need to provide that money and the manufacturers making their own investments are choosing to keep the findings to themselves for proprietary reasons."

When it was published, in 2015, the Idaho National Laboratory's study was the largest ever done. All told, bundled with some additional data, the study helped Idaho researchers analyze 21,600 electric vehicles over 158 million driving miles (254 million kilometers).

In the same amount of time it took Idaho researchers to publish their study, the Shanghai Electric Vehicle Public Data Collecting, Monitoring and Research Center began gathering real-time information from more than 222,000 vehicles and amassed over 4.7 billion miles (7.6 billion kilometers) of driving history.

"As a researcher, I think that data set could be used to answer hundreds of questions," Smart said. "I have a notebook a half an inch thick full of questions."

Global automakers stressed that they share data to comply with Chinese regulations. Nearly all have announced plans to aggressively expand their electric vehicle offerings in China, the world's largest car market.

"There are real-time monitoring systems in China where we have to deliver car data to a government system," Volkswagen Group China chief executive Jochem Heizmann said in an interview. He acknowledged that he could not guarantee the data would not be used for government surveillance, but stressed that Volkswagen keeps personal data, like the driver's identity, secure within its own systems.

"It includes the location of the car, yes, but not who is sitting in it," he said, adding that cars won't reveal any more information than smart phones already do. "There is not a principle difference between sitting in a car and being in a shopping mall and having a smart phone with you."

Jose Munoz, the head of Nissan's China operations, said he was unaware of the monitoring system until the AP told him, but he stressed that the automaker operated according to the law. Asked by the AP about the potential for human rights abuses and commercial conflicts posed by the data sharing, Munoz smiled and shrugged.

"At Nissan, we are extremely committed to the Chinese market," he said. "We see it as the market that has the greatest opportunity to grow."

Ford, BMW and NIO declined to comment. Mitsubishi did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

General Motors and Daimler said they transmit data in compliance with industry regulations and get consent from car buyers on how their vehicle data is collected and used.

Tesla declined to answer specific questions and instead pointed to a privacy policy buyers sign at the time of purchase, which stipulates that vehicle data can be shared "with other third parties when required by law," though there was no specific mention of the government monitoring centers in the Chinese version of the policy.

Interviews with car owners suggest such disclosures aren't effective. Only one of nine electric vehicle owners was aware data from his car is fed to the government — and he said he only knew because he is an electric vehicle engineer.

"It's useless to be concerned about it," said Min Zeren, who owns a Tesla Model S. "If you're concerned about it, then there's no way to live in this country."