The Drive was the first to reveal that Ford has filed a patent with the USPTO for systems and techniques that aid in vehicle repossession.

One of the technologies disclosed in the patent permits a self-driving car to reclaim ownership of itself.

Other techniques include reducing vehicle functions (air conditioning, power windows, power seats, etc.) and even locking out delinquent owners.

In the future, it may be far more difficult to avoid the repo man, especially if vehicles might one day repossess themselves. With autonomous driving technology set to become more popular in the coming years, all an automaker would need to do is develop a system that would allow your parked car, truck, or SUV to drive away if you don’t pay.

Thus far, none have. A filing by Ford with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) describes a self-repossessing mechanism as well as other repo-related consequences. The patent was initially submitted to the USPTO by Ford in 2021, but it wasn’t officially released until last Thursday—a discovery uncovered by The Drive.

Where’s My Vehicle?

As previously indicated, the most shocking elements detailed in the filing concern self-repossessing autonomous and semi-autonomous cars. For vehicles with the latter, they may simply move a short distance to a spot where they can be pulled more readily. For automobiles with more advanced autonomous technology, they may drive themselves to the lending institution or the repossession lot. In cases when the Ford repo system communicates with the lender and deems that the car’s market value does not justify the expense of repossession, the vehicle could drive itself directly to the junkyard. Yikes.

Some of Ford’s other repo-related punishments are not as severe as forcing individuals to watch their unmanned F-150 Lightning drive directly to Uncle Tony’s Junkyard. 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 also serve as early warnings and workarounds for vehicle owners without autonomous technology or in situations where a vehicle cannot drive itself away or be accessed by a tow truck.

These can be as simple as disabling certain vehicle functions, however frustrating. Air conditioning, cruise control, power seats, power windows, and the radio may be disengaged initially. The stereo system is used to play unpleasant and nonstop noises, according to a second way. We immediately recalled Jim Carrey’s line in Dumb and Dumber, “the most obnoxious sound in the world.” After that, they may progress to restricting access to and operation of the vehicle. Ford’s repo system may effectively disable the automobile, truck, or SUV and lock the owner out.

Preventing a Complete Repo

Noteworthy is the filing’s thorough description of the actions that would be done prior to an automated repossession. For instance, the lender and the owner with delinquent payments would exchange a series of messages, and the owner would have a certain amount of time to answer. Also, the report acknowledges occurrences such as hospitalisation and absence from the nation. It is stated that individuals experiencing financial difficulties may be able to negotiate a payment plan with their lender to avoid repo-related fines.

Ford’s patent application reveals that the business is at least considering the concept of self-repossessing vehicles. While this is feasible as autonomous driving technology becomes more integrated and more widespread, it is more likely that automobiles will be remotely repossessed by disabling features or immobilising them. Therefore, it is difficult to foretell the future.

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Headshot of Eric Stafford

Since 2016, Eric Stafford’s passion for writing news, reviews, and more for Car and Driver has been motivated by his early childhood obsession to automobiles. His childhood ambition was to become a millionaire with a car collection comparable to that of Jay Leno. Evidently, becoming wealthy is more difficult than social media influencers make it seem, so he eschewed financial achievement altogether by becoming an automotive journalist and driving new automobiles for a living. After graduating from Central Michigan University and working at a daily newspaper, he was hired by Car and Driver after years of essentially wasting money on failed project cars and lemon-flavored jalopies. His garage now houses a 2010 Acura RDX, a 1997 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 with a manual transmission, and a 1990 Honda CRX Si.