Ford seeks to patent repo system that could drive your car back to the lender... or the...

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,628   +174
Staff member
In brief: A recently published Ford patent application outlines some of the extreme systems and methods the automaker could implement when attempting to repossess a vehicle. The application, filed in August 2021 but published days ago, notes that vehicle owners may default on a payment for a variety of reasons and can lead to repossession. This process can sometimes erupt into confrontation, hence Ford's desire to provide a solution to address the situation.

In short, Ford describes a multi-step repossession system that could increase in severity if notices to pay are continually ignored.

The lender, for example, could start with disabling second level optional-use components like the air conditioning system, remote key fobs or the automated door lock / unlock system. Disabling these components "may cause an additional level of discomfort to a driver and occupants of the vehicle," the patent reads.

The system could further command the radio to play an "incessant and unpleasant sound" every time you get in the vehicle with a constantly varying pitch, tone, cadence, beat and volume. Should that still not get the owners' attention, the vehicle could lock the user out of the cabin – perhaps just on weekends, allowing use of the vehicle during weekdays to avoid "adversely affecting a livelihood of the owner of the vehicle and hampering the owner's ability to make payments toward the vehicle."

Assuming no resolution on the payment front, the lender may elect to impound the vehicle. If the vehicle in question has autonomous capabilities, the repossession system can move the vehicle to a location that is more convenient for a tow truck to retrieve it. Optionally, the repo system could autonomously drive the vehicle directly to the repossession agency.

In an even more unimaginable scenario, the repo system can determine the value of the vehicle to see if it even makes financial sense for the lender to repossess it. If not, the vehicle may be instructed to drive itself to the junkyard.

The examples presented here only scratch the surface of situations and solutions presented in Ford's patent. There's no guarantee that Ford will ever implement any of these methods in future vehicles, but we know they are at least mulling options that most of us have never even considered.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Would Ford's patent help keep repo drivers out of harm's way? Are there enough fail-safes in place? For example, what happens if the AC is disabled on a hot summer day and the driver has a preexisting health condition, or there are young children in the vehicle?

Image credit: Ford by Jessy Smith, Past Due by Nicola Barts, Tow Truck by Joshuer

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Posts: 4,088   +4,778
In reality, a Ford is just gonna crash while driving itself back and then Ford has to pay everyone the damages. But the idea is great, morons who buy a car with this feature get the pleasure of having to pay for the car multiple times.


Posts: 5,056   +6,590
This is unacceptable. Vin numbers are long and complicated but also sequential. All that needs to happen is they change an 8 to a 9 and someone elses car is going to be repo'd. And what if the repo module malfunctions? Suddenly a perfectly good, paid for car could have its AC turned off or other issues. While this is good in theory, when these things fail and they will. Every component on cars fails, the frequency in which it fails differ and many cars could go their whole life without having certain things failing, but the volume of cars produced means that we will see failures of every component at some point. If you produce 1,000,000 cars there could be 10 failures or there could be 10,000 failures, but some number of them will fail.


Posts: 4,647   +7,053
How about not selling cars to people with bad credit histories? Maybe try that first? After all, about two weeks after the "runaway car" system debuts they'll be dongles and apps for disabling it for $20 online.


Posts: 202   +141
Well, we all know the possible outcomes both positive and negative. But Decades ago people thought flying and space travel was fantasy and fiction. I'd like to say never say never.


Posts: 1,876   +1,005
If you dont have money to pay for it, disabling AC wont do anything.
There is a thing called law for people who cant pay for stuff they purchased.
I dont think anything like this would improve the situation.
Much bigger problem for car makers would be if people became smarter
and stopped wasting money on things they should not own with their income level.

Jerry in WA

Posts: 91   +100
We can't barely even get Level 3 cars that work well and all of the cars that have it are expensive. This would take, bare minimum, Level 4 or 5, something we are nowhere near having and seem decades away from getting, and it will begin in premium cars. I suspect this dark robot tech isn't going into your humdrum F-150 or Escape anytime soon but Ford is thinking about building your car with a built in repo-man now. Nice, eh? (barf)


Posts: 1,135   +959
You can't patent an idea... they may using patents for this idea...

If so, I want to patent personal space travel to mars, and also Space travel to other solar systems..


Posts: 3,997   +7,114
In reality, a Ford is just gonna crash while driving itself back and then Ford has to pay everyone the damages. But the idea is great, morons who buy a car with this feature get the pleasure of having to pay for the car multiple times.
the problem is it will be forced into all modern vehicles. Much like digital dashboards and bumper sensors.


Posts: 47   +16
Well, this would need to be widely adopted as an industry standard, since after a vehicle is sold from the dealership, FORD no longer owns it... even if you finance it thru Ford credit...which is a separate entity as a finance company...

And a large majority of people don't use the dealer's financing anyways...not unless they're offering some really, really low rates or other incentives that can't be had anywhere else.

So the banks/credit unions/etc would all have to be onboard for this to even be a viable system...

And yea, go ahead, make my day.... by taking my helpless 3 year old on a non-consensual death ride to the junkyard...uh huh...

In most places, that would be called....KIDNAPPING &/or CHILD ENDANGERMENT !!!