Sometimes, folks get over their head on car payments and fall behind. Other times, nefarious individuals jump into a vehicle purchase with no intention of making all the payments. Regardless of how it begins, the ugly process of vehicle repossession generally ends with a tow truck, a nasty confrontation, or both.
Ford proposes other solutions in a recently published patent application that, among other things, could let the car repossess itself. Titled "Systems and Methods to Repossess a Vehicle," the patent application was filed back in 2021 and it pretty much follows that title exactly. By exactly, we mean five pages of diagrams followed by nine pages of descriptive scenarios intertwined with legalese to define what a "person" and a "vehicle" are. If that sounds a bit intimidating, here's our TL;DR version.
Utilizing various computer systems both hard-wired and remote, a vehicle can be locked down to prevent an owner from accessing or using it. If autonomous systems are present, the vehicle could be moved to a better location for tow trucks to pick it up. Or if we're in a fully autonomous future, commands could be sent to literally have the car drive itself to a repo lot, bank, or even a freaking junkyard if the car is deemed to be not worth the cost of the repo. No, that doesn't make sense to us, either. But hey, it's a patent filing offering potential scenarios incorporating tech that doesn't exist yet.
Taking a closer look at the patent, it proposes a dedicated first computer that "may be controlled by a financing agency" which connects to a standard vehicle computer system. That first computer could already be installed on the vehicle, or the connection could happen remotely. At first, the vehicle owner is notified of being late on payments and if there's no response or acknowledgment regarding the messages, things escalate.
That's where numerous scenarios are presented, from simply locking the car up to disabling it completely and yes, driving itself away. The patent offers several alternate scenarios, such as an emergency mode that could get people to the hospital or meet first responders if certain conditions are met. But beyond that, the tech makes it impossible for delinquent owners to do anything dramatic like trying to hide the car in the backyard, or wrecking tow trucks once it's already on the hook.
It's important to remember that this is just a patent filing with no indication of being implemented. Automakers file patents on a regular basis, many of which never go beyond the drawing board.