- Ford has filed a patent with the USPTO for systems and methods that aid in vehicle repossession, as first reported by The Drive.
- One of the systems described in the patent enables an autonomous vehicle to repossess itself.
- Other methods suggest limiting vehicle functions (A/C, power windows, power seats, etc.) and even locking delinquent owners out of their vehicles.
Avoiding the repo man could get a lot harder in the future, especially if vehicles can one day repossess themselves. With autonomous driving tech likely becoming more prevalent in the coming years, all it would take is an automaker to introduce a system where that new car, truck, or SUV parked in your driveway can drive itself away if you don’t pay.
So far, none have. However, Ford could play spoiler based on a filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that details a self-repossessing system along with other repo-related repercussions. Ford first filed the patent with the USPTO back in 2021, but it wasn’t formally published until last Thursday—a discovery originally made by The Drive.
Dude, where’s my Ford?
As we already mentioned, the most startling details described in the filing regard autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles that can repossess themselves. For vehicles equipped with the latter, they might simply move themselves a short distance to a location where they can be more easily towed. For vehicles with more advanced autonomous tech, they could drive themselves to the lending company or the repo lot. In situations where Ford’s repo system corresponds with the lender and determines the vehicle’s market value isn’t worth the cost of the repossession, it could drive itself straight to the junkyard. Yikes.
Some of Ford’s other repo-related repercussions don’t go quite as far as making people watch their unmanned F-150 Lightning drive directly to the crusher at Uncle Tony’s Salvage. They also act as early warnings and workarounds for folks who own vehicles without autonomous technology or in cases where a vehicle is parked in a garage or otherwise unable to drive itself away or be accessed by a tow truck.
They can be as simple, albeit infuriating, as disabling certain vehicle functions. At first, convenience features such as the air-conditioning, cruise control, power seats, power windows, or the radio might be deactivated. Another method is described as playing irritating and incessant sounds through the stereo system. We immediately thought of Jim Carrey’s “most annoying sound in the world” scene from Dumb and Dumber. After that, they could escalate to limiting functions to access or drive the vehicle. Essentially, Ford’s repo system could immobilize the car, truck, or SUV and even lock the owner out.
Avoiding the Full Repo
It’s worth noting the filing extensively details steps that would be taken before an automated repossession occurs. For example, a series of messages would be sent between the lender and the owner with past-due payments, who would then have an allotted amount of time to respond accordingly. The filing also includes language acknowledging events such as being hospitalized or being out of the country. It’s mentioned that people with financial hardships might be able to work out a payment plan with their lender to avoid repo-related penalties.
For now, all Ford’s patent filing confirms is that the company is at least kicking around the idea of self-repossessing vehicles. While it sounds plausible the more autonomous driving tech becomes better integrated and more common, we’d sooner expect to see vehicles be remotely repossessed by having features disabled or through immobilization. Then again, it’s hard to predict the future.
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Eric Stafford’s automobile addiction began before he could walk, and it has fueled his passion to write news, reviews, and more for car and driver since 2016. His aspiration growing up was to become a millionaire with a Jay Leno–like car collection. Apparently, getting rich is harder than social-media influencers make it seem, so he avoided financial success entirely to become an automotive journalist and drive new cars for a living. After earning a degree at Central Michigan University and working at a daily newspaper, the years of basically burning money on failed project cars and lemon-flavored jalopies finally paid off when car and driver hired him. His garage currently includes a 2010 Acura RDX, a manual ’97 Chevy Camaro Z/28, and a ’90 Honda CRX Si.