Ford filed for a patent on a new technological system that would allow the automaker to lock out owners from their cars for missed payments. The patent would also allow cars to be repossessed remotely – even enabling self-driving vehicles to drive themselves to a repo lot.
Ford Global Technologies applied for a patent regarding "systems and methods to repossess a vehicle" on Aug. 20, 2021. The application with the United States Patent Office was formally published on Feb. 23, 2023.
The 14-page patent says the system would connect a computer with the bank or lender as well as the computer on the vehicle or the car owner's smartphone.
Ford could disable features such as air conditioning, cruise control, and the radio if auto owners are delinquent with payments. The stereo could be designed to "emit an incessant and unpleasant sound every time the owner is present in the vehicle," according to the patent.
Further missed payments would allow Ford to lock out the owner from their own car.
The system would permit Ford to restrict the vehicle to only drive to certain locations such as to buy groceries, drop children off at school, drive to a hospital for a medical emergency, or to commute to work.
"When an acknowledgment is not received within a reasonable period of time, the first computer may disable a functionality of a component of the vehicle or may place the vehicle in a lockout condition," the patent description reads. "The lockout condition may be lifted momentarily in case of an emergency to allow the vehicle to travel to a medical facility."
The system could unlock the car if a payment is made.
If enough payments are missed, Ford could remotely order the autonomous car to drive itself to a repo lot or to a place where a tow truck could have easy access to the vehicle.
A "repossession computer" could be installed on future cars to enable cars to enable Ford to take control of vehicles. According to The Drive, "Basically, if your car has an infotainment system already set up to receive something like over-the-air updates, this could probably work without physical modifications."
The patent has yet to be approved.
Regarding the eye-opening patent, Ford said in a statement, "We don’t have any plans to deploy this."
Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood told the Detroit Free Press, "We submit patents on new inventions as a normal course of business but they aren't necessarily an indication of new business or product plans."
In January, the percentage of auto borrowers who are at least 60 days late is 20.4% higher than a year ago, according to data from Cox Automotive. Loan defaults were up a staggering 33.5% from a year ago. The severe delinquency rate spiked to the highest level since 2006. Car repossessions jumped 11% compared to the previous year.
Last month, Ford CEO Jim Farley said, "We have to change our cost profile. We know what we have to go after."
"There are things we could do in the short term, but I don’t want to just make the output the cuts without redesigning the work," Farley added. "This has to be sustainable and that’s how we’re thinking about it nowadays."
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