A recent automotive technology patent application could be another step toward what some would consider a cyberpunk dystopia.
In late February, Ford Motor Co. applied for a patent on a technology that would give the company the ability to remotely control the vehicles of owners who have missed payments.
The repossession technology could trigger a continuous beeping sound, disable the radio, air conditioning or other features, or even shut down the key fobs and locks and disable the engine.
At the most extreme measure, if the car has self-driving technology, it would drive itself to the impound lot.
These methods are certain to get the vehicle owner’s attention. A continuous beeping sound is annoying and the lack of a radio or air conditioning is frustrating, particularly on a long commute. When the car has been disabled and cannot even be accessed or started, the matter becomes much more serious, especially for anyone who needs a car to get to and from work or other functions. And when the car has driven itself away, the owner cannot help but notice.
The idea of going after delinquent vehicle owners is nothing new. For years, repossession companies have been seizing cars and trucks when owners fall behind on their payments. This latest technology, however, is more severe. It allows the car company to repossess the vehicle, without Repo Man and his tow truck waiting nearby.
Ford has also said there are no immediate plans to implement this technology. Cars and trucks won’t suddenly drive themselves to impound lots and Repo Man won’t be in the unemployment line any time soon.
This technology, if and when it comes into use, has the potential to change the way people buy and own new vehicles.
The repossession technology acts as a stick, ensuring those who buy new vehicles will keep up with their payments. Otherwise, they could be left owing money on a non-functioning vehicle, or for a vehicle that has driven itself away from them.
That’s an outcome any driver would prefer to avoid.
John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.