A newly published patent application from Ford has revealed that the American automaker wants to be able to lock drivers out of their vehicles for nonpayment and even allow the vehicle to repossess itself.
The patent document, obtained by The Drive, was submitted to the United States Patent Office in August of 2021, but was formally published on February 23. The patent, titled "Systems and Methods to Repossess a Vehicle," outlines different methods that would be taken if the vehicle owner misses payments.
The application describes the installation of a "repossession system computer," which would be capable of disabling "a functionality of one or more components of the vehicle," including the air conditioning, and radio, "incessant and unpleasant sound" may be turned on "every time the owner is present in the vehicle," or even placing the vehicle in a "lockout condition," meaning it is unable to be driven unless in the case of an emergency situation like needing to go to the hospital.
The repossession system computer could be "configured to communicate via a network with various entities, such as, for example a computer of the repossession agency, a computer of a police authority, a computer of a medical facility, a computer of a lending institution, and/or a personal communication device of the owner," the application states.
This computer may also use mounted cameras, like backup cameras, to determine whether the car has been parked inside a closed garage "in order to foil a repossession operation of the vehicle."
If the driver has missed payments, the driver would first be sent a notice of payment delinquency. If the driver continues to miss payments and ignore the notice, functions would slowly be disabled in the vehicle over time. If the driver still continues to miss payments, the vehicle would be placed in a lockout state, meaning that the door lock mechanisms would be disabled, preventing the owner from getting inside on days or times that the owner is prohibited from using the vehicle.
During the days that the owner is allowed to access the vehicle, like weekdays to get to work, the owner would be limited to a geofenced location. "No travel is permitted outside the geofence," the application states.
If the owner still misses payments and doesn’t reach out to the lender, semi-autonomous vehicles may be instructed to move to locations that are "more convenient for a tow truck to tow the vehicle," and autonomous vehicles would be instructed to drive to the repossession agency, an impound lot, or a junkyard depending on the market value of the vehicle.
If the owner blocks attempts to repossess, the vehicle’s computer may "transmit a complaint to the computer associated with the police authority."
According to The Drive, Ford’s application doesn’t mean that the automaker would necessarily implement this technology but instead protect its idea. With the mentions of autonomous vehicles, this technology could be years away.
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