When automakers sell the dream of a self-driving car, they usually lean on the idea of convenience. Many drivers fantasize about cars that could park themselves without anyone present and be summoned when needed for travel. However, self-driving vehicles would also have all the functionality necessary for a third party to take control away from the driver. Ford has applied for a patent that could allow this exact scenario to happen in the future. Though, it’s likely that this will be one of Ford’s multitude of patents that never make it into a production model.
Ford Global Technologies, an R&D subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company, applied for a patent outlining a suite of potential self-repossession systems. According to MLive, the patent portrayed a possible multi-step escalation where a lending institution, like a bank or dealership, could disable features on a vehicle if the owner missed payments.
The proposed tactics sound like Ford ripped them straight from a science-fiction dystopia. The self-driving Ford could sound an alarm out of the owner’s control. The lender could lock the owner out of the car on certain days of the week or use a geo-fence to only allow the owner to drive the Ford to essential locations. The final step would be self-repossession, where the vehicle would drive itself to a waiting tow truck or directly to a repossession agency. And yes, the car could contact the police if the owner attempts to prevent repossession.
Ford and every other manufacturer on the planet don’t currently sell self-driving vehicles. The Detroit automaker has also said there are no plans to deploy self-repossession technology. Ford spokesperson Wes Sherwood stated to MLive, “We do not have any plans to deploy this. 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.”
While Ford ended its self-driving venture with Volkswagen, it launched a new semi-autonomous-driving subsidiary called Latitude AI. Self-driving Fords are years away from the showroom, and self-repossession technology is even further away. While distant, the general public should know this is a potential future before it’s too late to prevent it.