The Next Dark Generation of Smart Car? Ford Motors Is Exploring Automobiles That Can Reposess Themselves

Koji Sasahara


Approaching dystopia: Ford Motors might be stepping on the gas on the way to Skynet.

While everyone seems somewhat consumed with the AI trend, from publishing to colleges to social media, another long-percolating lurch into the future is getting a touch more disturbing. Self-driving cars have been popping up in the news for years now, and recently they have made big advances toward reality.


Elon Musk has been at the forefront of this movement, as his Teslas are already capable of autopilot functions, driverless taxis have been rolled out, and more driverless vehicles are arriving. Now comes word that a major car maker is taking autonomous to a new level.

At the car news outlet The Drive, they came across a patent filed by the Ford Motor Company that will make repossessions of vehicles where the owners are late on payments a more automatic process. The patent — filed in 2021 but only made public recently – is entitled “Systems and Methods to Repossess a Vehicle.” Cars might be moved to areas where they can be collected or even guided back to the dealership, the lending institution, or — in the case of a reported theft — to a local police station. 

For vehicles with autonomous or semi-autonomous driving capability, the system could “move the vehicle from a first spot to a second spot that is more convenient for a tow truck to tow the vehicle… move the vehicle from the premises of the owner to a location such as, for example, the premises of the repossession agency.”

Other possibilities could be in limiting particular car functions as a means of motivating a driver to make payments that have come past due. Maybe the radio with be disabled, or the A/C system shut down until the account is brought back up to current. 

This, of course, brings up all manner of dystopian problems. Even as a patent filing is not a guarantee that such a system will ever be installed, the concept alone is one to churn up bothersome effects. Most new cars these days have some form of internet connectivity, with either onboard wifi, satellite radio, emergency contacting services, and such. These could all be the pathways used by automakers to gain control over your car.

The dashboard of the BMW i Vision Future Interaction concept car is on display during a news conference at CES Press Day at CES International, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP

Want to feel creeped out even more? In the detailed application, it even allowed for contingencies, such as medical emergencies.

It says the vehicle’s onboard camera could be used alongside a “neural network” to determine if the emergency situation is legitimate.

This also raises questions on the ability to hack these systems and become a pathway for car thieves to access control of your car. If a car maker or bank can be granted a path into the car’s system then there is a likelihood of thieves figuring out a method of taking control of this same system and having your car speed off without you.

These are just some of the disturbing permutations that may be facing us down the road. And there is another ancillary side effect to consider. This will lead to more joblessness, as repo men will be pushed out of work!


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