Ford files patent to let self-driving cars drive away without their owners

One of the reasons cited for giving self-driving the ability to drive away on their own is when companies like Ford need to repossess a vehicle.


It seems like Ford is looking at plans to approach vehicle repossession from a modern, uniquely dystopian angle. Recently, it was shared by outlets like PC Gamer that Ford filed for a patent back in August 2021 that was published last week called “Systems and Methods to Repossess a Vehicle.” The patent outlines a number of ways that companies like Ford can go about interfering with a vehicle in effort to make repossession easier.

Some of the methods cited are fairly innocuous, like a computer first sending a notice of delinquency to the owner that’d require an acknowledgement confirming that it’s been read. Should the message be ignored, however, the vehicle’s owner is in for a gradually increasing stream of obnoxious interference including the disabling of the car’s radio or air conditioner. Or, having to suffer through the vehicle playing an “incessant and unpleasant sound” every time the owner is in the vehicle.

If that’s not enough, the patent goes on to list more intrusive methods of interference including a full lockout where the owner wouldn’t be able to use the car at all. Although, they would be able to use it in emergency situations according to the information provided in the patent document.

Inside Ford's F-150 Lightning showing the car's computer controls
© Ford

If the vehicle’s owner has managed to deal with the gradually increasing methods of interference, there’s one final move that companies like Ford can fall back on that sees the vehicle quite literally driving away from its owner. Any Ford vehicle with self-driving capabilities, according to the patent filing, would be at risk of the company “[moving] the vehicle from a first spot to a second spot that is more convenient for a tow truck to tow the vehicle [or moving] the vehicle from the premises of the owner to a location such as, for example, the premises of the repossession agency.”

While these methods and the patent itself is primarily focused on vehicle repossession, it’s hard to not feel a bit unsettled when reading through the patent details. Especially given how other companies have attempted to exert influence over vehicle owners in other ways, such as BMW attempting to implement microtransactions for things like the ability to use the car’s heated seats.

For more on all the ways Ford could mess with your vehicle in the future, be sure to read through the full patent filing. Also check out some of our previous Ford-related coverage including Ford pausing production on its EV F-150 Lightning due to potential battery issue, and the Ford and VW backed Argo AI autonomous vehicle project shutting down last year.

Senior Editor

Morgan is a writer from the frozen wastelands of Maine who enjoys metal music, kpop, horror, and indie games. They're also a Tetris fanatic who's fiercely competitive in games like Tetris 99... and all games in general. But mostly Tetris. You can follow Morgan on Twitter @Author_MShaver.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 1, 2023 1:00 PM

    Morgan Shaver posted a new article, Ford files patent to let self-driving cars drive away without their owners

    • reply
      March 1, 2023 1:26 PM

      Doesn't Tesla already have a feature (or at least have talked about) having your car come from a parking spot to pick you up? Isn't that like the most obvious feature once the car can self drive, is to drive without a driver? Tesla has already talked about putting its self driving cars into an Uber like fleet, obviously they would travel without a driver to pick passengers up.

      Having the car repossess itself is kind of shitty, so maybe do left Ford be the only company that can use that idea for the next twenty years.

    • reply
      March 1, 2023 1:29 PM

      *Assuming Direct Control*

Hello, Meet Lola