Ford patents technology to remotely disable cars for unpaid loans

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Ford Motor Company has applied for a patent that would allow the carmaker to remotely disable a vehicle or a component of the vehicle if the owner is behind on car payments. The move could lead to self-driving cars heading to the repossession lot if the owner does not acknowledge the delinquency notice within a reasonable period of time.

Ford seeks a solution to delinquent car payments

According to the patent application published last month, the automaker seeks a solution to car owners being unwilling to have their vehicles repossessed by remotely disabling the vehicle or a component of the vehicle if a delinquency notice isn’t acknowledged over a certain period of time. The application cites various possible scenarios for the repossession computer to use, including configuring the audio component to emit an unpleasant sound every time the owner is present in the vehicle or placing the vehicle in a lockout condition.

The patent describes a repossession system computer that can communicate with the vehicle computer and/or smartphone of the driver. The system can connect with various optional components of the vehicle, such as cruise control, automated window controls, seat controls, radio, GPS, door locking system, and air conditioning. If the acknowledgement is not received within a reasonable period of time, the computer may disable a functionality or place the vehicle in a lockout condition. The patent cites a vehicle camera that can determine if there’s an emergency to unlock the car, and the computer can alert the police with GPS location if an owner attempts to block the repossession effort.

If a car is equipped with a drone function, the bank can utilize this feature to have the car autonomously drive itself to an impound lot if necessary. Additionally, the technology can assess whether it would be financially viable for the bank to seize the car, taking into account factors such as mileage and condition. In cases where confiscation would not be profitable, the car could be programmed to drive itself to a location where it can be scrapped for its metal components.

Rising car repossessions in the US

The US has seen a rise in car repossessions. The number of subprime borrowers, individuals with lower-than-average credit scores, at least 60 days behind their car payments had increased to 5.67% as of December 2022.

Ford’s patent application could help mitigate the risks of delinquent car payments and provide a new option for repossession companies to recover vehicles without physical contact. The use of technology in the automotive industry continues to advance rapidly. However, it remains to be seen if the technology will be implemented and if it will raise concerns over the privacy of car owners.