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Ford seeks patent for cars that ditch you if payments missed

Timely application as delinquencies rise with interest rates

A patent application from automaker Ford was published last week for embedded vehicle systems that facilitate an automobile's repossession, including autonomously moving it to a repossession agency.

The patent [PDF], which was filed in August, covers more ways to combat non-payment. The least intrusive is a helpful message delivered to the vehicle or a smartphone notifying the user of the delinquency.

If notices go unacknowledged, the system can disable select functionalities of the vehicle or even lock the vehicle out entirely – save for a medical emergency where it could potentially travel to a hospital or ambulance meeting spot autonomously.

For autonomous cars and trucks, why stop at rendezvousing with emergency vehicles? The patent also outlines the system's capability to move that vehicle to a parking spot more convenient for towing, as well as just relocating it off private property or other inaccessible areas. As mentioned, it could also move itself to a repossession agency or junkyard.

The patent also outlines a potential to lock the vehicle out on weekends only so that the driver can still access a job and might be able to come through on those delinquent payments. Geofencing the automobile's range is another option.

In a more passive aggressive case, audio within the vehicle, such as a beeping horn, chime or radio, could be activated remotely to annoy the operator.

The options are endless, and the patent application explores many. The authors argue that once warnings have been issued with no response, owners typically become uncooperative and may impede repossession, in some cases to the point of confrontation.

"It is therefore desirable to provide a solution to address this issue," wrote the four Ford engineers.

There's no telling if Ford intends to incorporate the software-only tech in any of its vehicles any time soon, either factory installed or as an over-the-air update. The Register has asked and will report back if any substantial information arises.

Car repossessions are on the rise in the United States as higher interest rates affect monthly payments.

"Over the last two years, vehicle prices were inflated because there was no new car supply, people were still buying like crazy because they had a lot of stay-at-home cash, they had inflated credit scores, so it was like a recipe for disaster," president of International Recovery Systems Jeremy Cross told NBC News in mid-December.

Those who bought at inflated prices with inflated credit scores are now getting hit by that inflation, thus creating a system ripe for delinquencies.

A spokesperson at Ford told us: "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." ®

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