Ford Motor Co. has applied for a patent on a technology designed to allow the auto company to repossess cars remotely if the owner fails to make payments.
The proposed system would first alert the owner about a missed payment before disabling certain features like GPS, air conditioning and the radio. If owners fail to act, the car can then lock them out and eventually even drive itself autonomously to an impound lot.
According to the patent, the lockout feature could be "lifted momentarily in case of an emergency to allow the vehicle to travel to a medical facility." It also poses a possible caveat where delinquent owners working toward clearing their balance, would have their car locked only on weekends to allow them to go work and earn an income to "make payments toward the vehicle."
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In its filing, Ford says the system is designed to solve the issue of "uncooperative" owners who are behind on payments and typically attempt to "impede the repossession operation," leading to "confrontations."
And if repossession costs more than the value of the vehicle, it could drive itself to a junkyard.
The patent application, which was first reported by The Drive, was filed in August 2021 but was formally published last week for public review as part of the official process.
U.S. & World
The new system comes as car repossessions are on the rise. NBC News reports that in the last few months, a growing number of consumers are falling behind on their car payments and for the lowest-income consumers, the rate of loan defaults is now exceeding where it was in 2019, according to data from ratings agency Fitch.
It’s an issue concerning to officials at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who say they are seeing troubling signs in the auto market, particularly among so-called subprime borrowers, who have below-average credit scores, and those with loans taken out in 2021 and 2022 when auto prices were particularly high.
“These repossessions are occurring on people who could afford that $500 or $600 a month payment two years ago, but now everything else in their life is more expensive,” said Ivan Drury, director of insights at car buying website Edmunds. “That’s where we’re starting to see the repossessions happen because it’s just everything else starting to pin you down.”
A spokesman for the Michigan-based
The Michigan-based automaker declined to say whether Ford would implement this technology as part of factory installation in its vehicles, but a spokesman said the patent was submitted "as a normal course of business, but they aren’t necessarily an indication of new business or product plans."