Ford has patented a system that allows a car to reclaim ownership if the owner is not up to date on the payment. Ford expects the car to return to the showroom on its own, or to a salvage yard if it’s low on value. But a security expert warns that the proposed system could be used to steal cars from a distance.
As revealed CD playerThe patent, which was filed in 2021 but was granted this week, describes how the system will activate if the vehicle owner does not respond to messages telling them they are late on payment. From that moment on, a series of measures would be applied that would at first make driving a car unpleasant and then impossible. Finally, as a last resort, the car will return on its own to the showroom.
The document explicitly says that the system, which can be installed on any future vehicle in the vehicle manufacturer’s range with a data connection, will be capable of “[desactivar] the function of one or more components of the vehicle.” From the engine to the air conditioning. In the case of vehicles with autonomous or semi-autonomous driving capabilities, the system can “move the vehicle from a first point to a second more appropriate point to tow the vehicle… move the vehicle from the owner’s premises to a location such as the headquarters of a repossession agency” or, if the lender finds the “financial viability of implementing the Prohibition Procedure” unjustified, the vehicle can drive itself to the junkyard.
Make life impossible for the car owner
The system could begin by disabling functions such as GPS navigation, the stereo or air conditioning, to create what the patent describes as “a certain level of discomfort” for the owner. If that doesn’t work, the patent suggests enabling the car to emit a “disturbing continuous sound” such as a ringing or beeping every time the owner enters the vehicle.
The next step would be to limit access to the car on certain days or times, making it useless for leisure on weekends, while allowing the owner to still go to work and thus not impairing his eventual ability to pay for the car. The patent also proposes using GPS to “geolocate” specific areas where the vehicle is disabled.
If all else fails, the car can be required to drive itself to a spot where a tow truck can pick it up, or even drive itself to a recovery yard. If the vehicle has a high mileage and is in poor condition, you may be required to drive directly to a salvage yard for recycling.
You must be independent
This system would, of course, require the car to be fully self-driving, which is a consistent but elusive goal for automakers; It is no longer possible to buy a truly independent car now than it was 15 years ago. Ford itself recently announced that it is abandoning its goal of developing fully self-driving technology, at a cost of $2.7 billion.
Ford did not respond to a request for comment on the newly granted patent, but security expert Alan Woodward of the University of Surrey in the UK says there would be security risks with such a system.
“It would be a brave manufacturer to incorporate it as standard in their car,” he says. I imagine a car thief not only finding an unauthorized way into the system, but also social engineering users “authorized” to give him access.
The fact that Ford predicts that self-driving cars will someday be worth so little that driving them to a junkyard themselves might make financial sense may provide a clue to the nature of this patent. It may not be something the automaker plans to develop anytime soon. Still, the fact that Ford has any interest in this sort of thing, whether it’s to protect an idea or not, is troubling. The idea of your self-driving car going away because you haven’t paid a bill isn’t a good idea, and keep in mind that Ford also mentions that “semi-autonomous” cars may be able to support a system like this. The current “Blue Cruise” hands-free driving system may be “semi-autonomous”.
Ford is the only automaker that has attempted to patent something like this. Making it easier to return property to banks is not formal in the minds of other car companies. Let’s hope, for the sake of all those who’ve stopped paying for a car, that it stays that way.
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