Ford's Latest Feature: Punishment Mode For Delinquent Car Owners
If you're someone who's been known to miss a car payment or two, you might want to listen up.
Ford Motor Co (NYSE: F) has filed a patent for a system that could turn your vehicle into a punishment machine if you fall behind on your loan. The system could disable everything from your air conditioning to your GPS, leaving you to suffer in a sweltering car with no idea where you're going.
It gets worse. Ford also suggests the idea of activating an audio component in the car to emit a horrible sound every time you're inside — an incessant, ear-piercing noise that would make even the most patient people go insane.
The Rise of AI & Self-Driving: Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been an increasingly prominent part of people’s everyday lives. From AI becoming one of the largest areas of venture capital funding for startups to the rise of programs like ChatGPT, the applications are becoming increasingly broad. Fords latest filings show some of the more concerning sides of this, but a patent filing doesn’t necessarily mean it will be used, and could help replace the currently malicious system in place used by repossession companies.
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The details: Ford is considering ways to repossess vehicles if the owner falls behind on their payments. The patent, which was filed in August 2021 and published in February, outlines sensors, cameras and other equipment that could be used to remotely disable the car and bring it to a stop if the rightful owner isn't behind the wheel. And it’s not just the engine — things like the air conditioning could be disabled, too.
According to the patent, missing a couple of car payments would trigger a chain of in-car consequences that Ford calls a "multistep repossession procedure."
First, you would get a notice of delinquency on your infotainment system screen. If you ignore that, there would be a second notice. And then things start to get interesting. Ford suggests that your car could slowly transform into a living nightmare with all sorts of punishments for delinquent car owners. The car could disable its own air conditioning, automated key, GPS or music system.
For vehicles with autonomous or semi-autonomous driving capabilities, the system could even move the car from one spot to another to make it easier for a tow truck to come and take it away. If the lender decides it's not financially viable to repossess the vehicle, the car could drive itself to the junkyard.
The patent application does go into great detail about how the system would work. The scary part is that if your car is connected to the internet, this technology could theoretically be applied to it.
Repossession computer: The patent describes a "repossession computer" that could be installed on future cars to make the system function seamlessly, but it also states that no extra hardware would necessarily need to be added to the vehicle for it to work.
"In some embodiments, the vehicle computer may be configured to perform some, or all, functions of the repossession system computer," according to the patent.
Ford has included measures in its patent to prevent owners from thwarting the repossession process, such as locking the vehicle in a closed garage. If this occurs, the system would automatically notify the police.
The patent for self-repossessing cars hasn't been granted, so people are not quite at the mercy of their vehicles — yet. But with new and used car prices skyrocketing post-COVID, it's no wonder companies like Ford are exploring every avenue to ensure they get their payments. According to Experian, drivers are shelling out an average of $700 per month for new cars and $500 per month for used vehicles.
This patent raises some important questions about the future of autonomous vehicles and how they will be used.
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