Ford vehicles of the future could repossess themselves and drive away

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Automaker Ford has applied for a patent in the U.S. that would give vehicles the ability to repossess themselves, including the potential capability to self-drive directly to a repossession agency.

The patent, entitled “Systems and Methods to Repossess a Vehicle,” was published on Feb. 23. Repossession usually occurs when a buyer defaults on necessary payments, causing a bank to seize said property (in this case, a Ford vehicle) without a court proceeding.

The 14-page document goes into detail about the methods and reasoning for automated repossession, including the ability for Ford to disable one or more components of a vehicle — everything from its engine to its lock mechanisms or entertainment system.

In the patent, Ford claims vehicle owners notified of repossession “may attempt to impede the repossession operation.”

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“In some cases, this can lead to confrontation,” Ford reasons in the patent. “It is therefore desirable to provide a solution to address this issue.”

The solution: to install a system that could forcibly repossess a vehicle without the owner’s presence. According to the patent, any vehicle with autonomous or semi-autonomous capabilities could be self-driven “from a first spot to a second spot that is more convenient for a tow truck to tow the vehicle.” The company says the vehicle could be driven via autopilot to a repossession agency or impound lot.

If the vehicle is not financially worthy of being fully repossessed, the automated repossession system “may cooperate with the vehicle computer to autonomously move the vehicle from the premises of the owner to a junkyard.”

This would be determined based on the car’s mileage, condition and other costs associated with repossession, like towing fees.

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Physical modifications to a vehicle would not be necessary for this system. The software, akin to a “repossession computer,” could be installed in any vehicle with an internet connection.

Ford says owners facing repossession would receive numerous alerts and notices before an automatic repossession would be enacted. One such alert idea mentioned in the patent is the use of an “incessant and unpleasant sound” that may go off “every time the owner is present in the vehicle.”

As described in the patent, an owner could also be locked out of their vehicle, though this would only be on the weekends. Emergency use — Ford uses the example of someone suffering a heart attack — would still be permitted.

Though Ford has filed the patent, that does not necessarily mean the automaker will introduce any element of the technology to its product lines. Often, patents are filed by a company in order to claim ownership of an idea before a competitor.

Global News reached out to Ford Canada to inquire if a similar patent was in the works north of the American border, but did not receive comment before press time.

Ford appears to be the only automaker to have filed for an automatic repossession patent.

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In Canada, auto loan delinquency rates are reportedly on the rise. Nearly two per cent of auto loans in Canada have become delinquent, an increase of 0.31 basis points from 2021.

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