Last month, the U.S. Patent Office published an application by Ford Motor Company for a System and methods to repossess a vehicle. The application describes a system that would allow a bank or leasing company to remotely disable a vehicle if the payments are not made. It would even allow the lienholder to disable certain features, like the air conditioning and radio.
The application details how the lockout could be deployed conditionally, by allowing owners to use the car within a defined geofence, so they could still work and earn an income – presumably to catch up on payments. The lockout could also be lifted for emergencies, allowing the vehicle to drive to a hospital.
The application goes on to describe how the system would use the vehicle’s cameras and radar sensors to help locate the vehicle for physical repossession in case it were parked inside a garage.
If all that weren’t enough, in the case of autonomous vehicles, the system could actually take control of the car and drive it to an impound lot.
Ford claims they have no active plans to market the system. “We do not have any plans to deploy this. We submit patents on new inventions as a normal course of business, but they aren’t necessarily an indication of new business or product plans”, a spokesperson told Ars Technica.
Police agencies have long had the ability to remotely disable vehicles equipped with certain systems, like GM’s OnStar. In that system, OnStar will announce that the car will be disabled, allowing time for the driver to pull to the curb before the engine is idled.
In light of these developments, it’s likely a matter of time before police will be able to lock the doors and drive a target vehicle and its occupants to jail.