Following the first automobile industry-specific data and cyber compliance rules, published late last year (see our alert here), regulators have issued guidelines on the licensing of surveying and mapping activities and use of mapping data within connected vehicles, through the new Regulations on Promoting the Development of Intelligent and Connected Vehicles and Maintaining the Security of Surveying and Mapping Geographic Information (the “Regulations”). These Regulations apply equally to foreign organisations within the automobile industry that are operating or expanding their businesses in China.

  •  Applicability: as provided in the PRC Surveying and Mapping Law, “surveying and mapping activities” include the operation, service, and road testing of connected vehicles with installed or in-built sensors (e.g. satellite navigation, measurement units, cameras, radars) that collect, store, transfer, or process images, spatial co-ordinates, point clouds of the vehicle and surrounding road facilities.

The Regulations aim to regulate car companies, services providers, and smart driving software providers conducting surveying and mapping activities. However, the Regulations clarify that an organisation that is merely manufacturing, integrating or selling in-built sensors or smart vehicles is not regulated.

  •  Surveying and Mapping Licences: an administrative licence must be obtained in order to conduct any surveying and mapping activities.

Helpfully, the Regulations make clear that foreign organisations are not banned from conducting such activities. However, a foreign organisation is unable to obtain the requisite licence itself due to foreign ownership restrictions. Foreign organisations must now work with a domestic organisation with the relevant capabilities and qualifications to obtain such licence.

There is no impact on other aspects of mapping and navigation activities that are not regulated by the Regulations.

  •  Overseas Transfers: in addition to having an administrative licence, where there is any transfer of mapping data (e.g. images, spatial co-ordinates, point clouds of the vehicle and surrounding road facilities) or other types of regulated data such as state secrets and important data outside of Mainland China, specific licences and approvals are required. This also applies to organisations conducting aftersales and operation services. Any such cross-border transfers should be stopped until the requisite licences and approvals have been obtained.
  •  Next steps? To ensure critical data activities and flows can continue, organisations in the automobile industry, or supporting vehicle aftersales and operation services, should, as soon as possible:

      • check whether business operations fall within the scope of regulated surveying and mapping activities;
      • identify licensing requirements, and work with local partners (if necessary) to obtain the requisite licences;
      • reconsider and restructure data maps, flows and processing activities; and
      • obtain requisite licences and approvals (with local partners, if applicable) prior to transferring or accessing data overseas.