Ford’s car patent would allow vehicles to be autonomously repossessed


If Ford has its way, your car could drive itself to a repossession agency or scrapyard in the future if you default on a loan payment.

The carmaker is seeking a patent for an autonomous system that can claw back vehicles from bill dodgers.

Once the advent of self-driving cars is upon us, Ford’s proposed tech would allow a car to move itself back to the lender’s parking space or to a parking spot for towing. It could even drive away from a private property or an inaccessible area, according to the patent published last week.

Of course, lenders already have ways to curb late payments. These include rigging cars with a kill switch that can disable vehicles remotely with a push of a button. However, Ford’s system would harness self-driving tech to take things one step further.

Beyond whisking the car back to a scrapyard, it could even lock parts of the vehicle’s functionality — apart from when a medical emergency requires it to drive to a hospital. In addition, it could prevent you from accessing your motor on weekdays to convince you to make that overdue payment.

Ford also suggests geofencing the car, effectively restricting it from being driven outside of certain ring-fenced areas. The patent lists an exhaustive number of options, including less intrusive methods such as messaging an owner on their smartphone or inside the vehicle.

In addition, the system could override some of the car’s functions to prevent you from driving it. The patent states that the vehicle could self-activate its horn or radio to annoy the driver. That wouldn’t be the stuff of sci-fi, either. A hacker in the US previously bricked more than 100 cars and set off their horns in an attack on the vehicles’ web-based systems.

It’s unclear if the proposed system will ever see the light of day. Ford told The Register: “We submit patents on new inventions as a normal course of business but they aren’t necessarily an indication of new business or product plans."

Ford says system is designed to solve the issue of “unco-operative” owners who have “disregarded” payment notices, and are impeding the “repossession operation.” In some cases, this can lead to confrontation, it adds.

There are growing concerns in the UK about the debt tied up in finance on new and used cars amid the cost of living crisis. Borrowing on vehicles rose by 253 per cent in a little over a decade. That’s up from £11.2 billion a year in 2009, to nearly £39.6 billion in the 12 months to November 2022, according to an investigation by consumer website The Car Expert.