Outstanding payments are naturally a nuisance for car manufacturers. And reminders by post or app are very easy for customers to ignore. Ford therefore recently secured a patent that could make the fight against the debtor much easier - and at the same time would make life difficult for the defaulting counterparty.
The patent provides for ignorant customers to be made aware of the outstanding debts in several escalation stages. This should start with minor annoyances, gradually lead to the car hardly being able to be driven, and in the last step enable complete control of the vehicle - or trigger its independent return to the dealership.
According to the patent, the system should first deactivate individual functions, such as GPS navigation, the sound system or the air conditioning. All in all, this should cause a “certain degree of discomfort”. If that's not enough, the car should start playing an "incessant and unpleasant noise".
If none of this leads to success, the car should prevent certain journeys. At this stage, for example, it would still be possible to drive to a hospital or place of work, but other destinations would be blocked.
In the last stage, the patent stipulates that the car should drive itself to a place where it can be towed away in peace or head for a dealer who then puts the car back into storage. If the mileage is too high or the condition is very poor, the patent even outlines a scenario in which the car begins its final journey and presents itself to the nearest recycling center on its own.
But that's still all in the future - because many of the functions described would require a fully autonomous car that would be able to drive safely from A to B without a driver. It is also unclear what would happen if the Ford were left in a garage or on a fenced-off site – it would probably not be able to free itself.
Ford explained to "Gizmodo" that the manufacturer sees filing patents for new inventions as part of everyday work and that these are not always intended for immediate use.