Ford is paving the way for autonomous cars that can functionally repossess themselves, as evidenced by a patent application spotted by the folks at The Drive. Submitted back in 2021 but recently published, the application says that Ford seeks to patent "Systems and Methods to Repossess a Vehicle," but from the description, that's just the tip of the iceberg.
If Ford's accounting department decides you're delinquent, there are myriad ways the company could have the car help coerce a payment from you, because nothing beats being broke and miserable. Such as? For starters, it can geofence the area where you're allowed to operate the car (Better turn left, Marcy, or you won't be turning at all). Failing that, Ford says it could command the audio system to "emit an incessant and unpleasant sound every time the owner is present in the vehicle," for example, or disable other key features, such as climate control.
From there, the car's other systems can be commandeered to help the bank locate your car. Camera and sensor data about the surroundings could be transmitted to the repossessing agency. And if none of this does the trick, vehicles with self-driving features could simply be summoned to the holding yard of the bank's choosing as the repossession process begins.
In fairness, the patent application does make some accommodations for emergency situations. If the in-car systems determine that you're experiencing a medical crisis (say, heat stroke due to the fact they've disabled your air conditioning), it will kindly summon you an ambulance.
A system such as this raises questions about not just whether it's ethical to use it as intended, but what other applications it may have and what the consequences might be if it's abused. Look no further than the recent shenanigans at Hertz for a glaring example of how quickly small clerical errors can spiral out of control.
Ford's application makes it clear that cars of tomorrow will be capable of all sorts of high-tech wizardry, but if you ask me, there's one glaring omission: If your F-150 is going to leave you all on its own, the least it could do is write you a country song about it first.
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