Ford has submitted a patent application for a technology that would ostensibly enable a smart, self-driving vehicle to lock out its owner if regular payments were not made.
The patent, first submitted two years ago but now being made public, follows a lengthy procedure to ensure payment compliance before ultimately ending with self-repossession. The car would simply not allow the driver to enter or use any functions if deemed to be delinquent in payments.
“When an acknowledgment is not received within a reasonable period of time, the first computer may disable a functionality of a component of the vehicle or may place the vehicle in a lockout condition,” the patent application stated. “The lockout condition may be lifted momentarily in case of an emergency to allow the vehicle to travel to a medical facility.”
And for anyone thinking they could easily get around this problem by purchasing gas-powered cars, think again. The patent applies to both electric and internal-combustion vehicles. Anyone that has driven a car in the last decade knows how advanced the tech is in their current model.
Prior to freezing out owners, several stages in the “multi-step repossession procedure” would sequence before reaching the final step. The patent suggests the technology would seek to“cause an additional level of discomfort to a driver and occupants of the vehicle” and encourage payment submissions.” These discomforts could include the disengagement of air conditioning, stereo, and other automated features like fob key use and automated locking mechanisms.
If that doesn’t inspire the car owner to catch up on payments, the car “could alternatively activate chimes, beepers, or radios to “emit an incessant and unpleasant sound every time the owner is present in the vehicle.”
The Daily Wire noted that the timing of this patent’s publication coincides with the rising rates of defaults on loans as consumers are impacted doubly by continued inflation which eats into their household’s bottom line as well as higher borrowing rates.
The patent application comes as more consumers default on their automotive loans due to economic turmoil and inflationary pressures. The number of debtors delinquent by more than 60 days increased 26.7% year-over-year as of December 2022, according to a report from Cox Automotive. Some 1.84% of loans were severely delinquent, marking the highest rate since the aftermath of the financial crisis.
Though not explicitly stated in the patent, which presents this technology to lenders as a safeguard against defaults, one worrisome aspect of its implementation is that it isn’t hard to fathom a future when other reasons could be justified to disable the use of one’s vehicle.
Widely reported in a previous Joe Biden infrastructure bill was the idea of a government-mandated “kill switch.” Fact-checkers at USA Today swatted away the idea that government entities could harness the power, though it did admit such a feature was part of sweeping legislation poised to hit the market in 2026.
USA Today wrote that “the bill in question directs a federal agency to require technology that would detect driver impairment and disable the vehicle in that scenario.”
Again, the purported aim is to reduce drunk driving, which is not a bad thing – just as repossessing unpaid cars is not necessarily a bad thing – but it again points to a growing trend of technology being able to drastically insert itself into everyday life.
If the capability exists to lock people out of their cars, is it far-fetched to wonder how social credit scores could also be used against people? What if you post something online that cuts against the accepted narratives or attend a political rally deemed unworthy of support by the mainstream media and political ruling class? What if you drive too much and emit too much carbon dioxide, as deemed by agencies, in a given week?
It doesn’t take much thinking to be cocnerned about how this technology could have much farther implications than simply combatting deliquency or drunk driving.
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