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Ford applies for patent to repossess cars remotely

The patent application describes one scenario where a repossessed vehicle would drive itself straight to a junkyard.

WASHINGTON — Ford has filed for a patent that could lead to cars repossessing themselves if a driver misses payments in the future. 

The patent application from Ford Global Technologies was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Aug. 2021 and was published on Feb. 23, 2023. TheDrive.com was first to report on the patent

A company spokesperson confirmed to the Detroit Free Press that the patent is still pending and not yet granted. 

Now, just because someone is late on one car payment doesn't mean their vehicle would simply drive off on its own immediately. But that would be an option down the road if the patent is approved. 

The patent application describes "systems and methods to repossess a vehicle." It goes into detail about different strategies for resolving missed or late payments, which include first sending messages to a vehicle's display screens or the owner's smartphone. 

If those messages are ignored, the patent application discusses a range of possibilities for what could happen next. It includes a system where a lender could remotely disable some "optional-use" components like cruise control, the radio, air conditioning system or remote key fobs. 

After a period of time, the process could then ramp up to include playing audio that's "incessant and unpleasant" any time the owner is present in the vehicle. 

According to the patent application, if the owner still fails to reach out to their lender at this point, the car may lock them out. Though there are caveats, such as allowing the driver access on weekdays to go to work or within a "geofence" area. Drivers would still be able to access the car during a medical emergency, the application explains. 

If all else fails, that's when the vehicle could be remotely told to drive itself away to a waiting tow truck or impound lot to be repossessed. 

The patent application even details a scenario where the car drives itself straight to a junkyard, if it's determined the market value is below the "financial viability" of repossessing it. 

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