In March of last year, an eyebrow-raising Ford patent application surfaced for a technology that would allow the brand's vehicles to repossess themselves. Essentially, if you missed the payments on a Ford with any sort of autonomous or semi-autonomous driving capability, your car would get up and walk out of your driveway on its own and call a tow truck. However, it seems that Ford decided to ice its plans for self-repo technology, as the patent's status is now listed as "abandoned."
According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Ford's self-repo patent submission was abandoned due to "Failure to Respond to an Office Action" on October 20, 2023. It seems like the automaker just let it expire. Perhaps Ford saw some of the public backlash following the initial unearthing of the application, as many people felt the technology was a bit too dystopian.
The proposal was designed to make repossession easier for both Ford and lienholders, and it's theoretically possible on any Ford with an infotainment system that supports over-the-air updates. If the car were to have autonomous capability, then Ford would be able to let it drive itself from its first location, such as the owner's driveway, to a more accessible location for a tow truck, such as the side of a street. It could even drive itself to a junkyard if necessary. For cars that can't drive themselves, the software could just immobilize the vehicle, preventing the owner from driving it and keeping it in one spot for the tow truck.
It's also entirely possible that Ford was never sweet on the idea of self-repossessing cars anyway. Car companies regularly file patents for technologies they have no real intention to build, at least immediately. It's a way to keep ideas in their back pocket while they decide whether they should realize them, or wait for a more favorable public response. Whatever the reason, I think it's safe to say we're all happy this tech isn't coming to market any time soon.
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