According to the patent filing, the technology could eventually block car owners who fall behind on payments from using their vehicles entirely. In some cases, Ford vehicles with semi-autonomous or full self-driving capability could even be directed to drive themselves to a tow truck driver or a repossession lot.
The filing notes that vehicles with less resale value would be sent straight to the junkyard.
Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood has stated that the company does not currently have plans to deploy this technology. However, the patent filing has raised concerns among consumer advocates, who warn of the potential for abuse.
John Van Alst, a senior attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, told Bloomberg that the technology could open up a “can of worms” for manufacturers and is unnecessary. The patent filing comes at a time when car loan delinquencies in the US have surged, hitting their highest level since 2006 in January 2022, according to Cox Automotive data.