Ford envisions self-repossessing cars that simply drive away

Defaulting on car payments may first subject the vehicle's owner to a series of smaller tortures, including "incessant and unpleasant sound" or disabled air conditioning.

Ford has outlined its vision for self-repossessing cars in a patent filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office in August 2021 and published last month.

The patent describes a "repossession system computer" configured to execute repo procedures on behalf of a bank – or notify law enforcement if the owner tries to impede the process.

However, any car with data connectivity, for example, through an infotainment system, could repossess itself if the owner defaults on payments.

The owner would receive several warnings beforehand. The first notice might be sent as a message on the infotainment system's screen, urging the owner to pay up or contact the bank and explain the situation. The owner would have about a week to respond to the message. If it is intentionally ignored, a second notice will be sent, warning that repossession could be in order.

According to the patent, failure to act for another week after that would result in the repossession system computer initiating a "multi-step" repossession procedure.

It would first include disabling non-essential car functions such as air conditioning or remote key use to "cause an additional level of discomfort to a driver and occupants of the vehicle."

Image by Ford

It could also activate an audio component, such as a radio, or a chime, to "emit an incessant and unpleasant" sound whenever the owner is in the car.

The computer "may control various attributes of the sound to make the sound unpleasant such as, for example, by varying a tone, a timber, a pitch, a cadence, a beat, or a volume of the sound," the patent read.

The system may also ensure the owner could turn the sound off without contacting the bank, it added.

If all that fails, the computer would bring out the big guns and lock the owner out of the car until further action is decided.

Depending on the situation, the owner might be barred from using the car on weekends but not weekdays to avoid "adversely affecting the livelihood of the owner of the vehicle," the patent said.

Alternatively, the owner may use the car within a geofence, a virtual boundary, to allow for grocery shopping dropping children off at school.

The car could also be reactivated in case of a medical emergency. It would be up to the computer to decide the severity of the situation via cameras in the car.

According to the patent, the computer may also use vehicle cameras to monitor the car and its surroundings.

Eventually, the bank could take action to repossess the car. In the case of self-driving cars, this could mean the vehicle simply driving away to a predesignated destination, such as the premises of the lending institution, or parking itself in a concealed spot.

The computer may also evaluate whether repossessing the car makes economic sense.

"If the market value is below the predetermined threshold price, the repossession system computer may cooperate with the vehicle computer to autonomously move the vehicle from the premises of the owner to a junkyard," the patent read.

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