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The Dark Side of Tech in Vehicles: How Your Car Can Repossess Itself

Automotive manufacturers are adapting to the new era of electric vehicles, as the global electric vehicle market is projected to grow from USD 165.1 billion in 2021 to USD 434.4 billion by 2028. While there are many perceived benefits to electric vehicles, such as reduced greenhouse gases and a lower dependence on fossil fuels, privacy and cybersecurity concerns are often overlooked. 

Manufacturers offer remote GPS monitoring and control features for electric vehicles that can be accessed through a smartphone app or web portal. These features allow owners to remotely lock and unlock the doors, locate the car, and monitor its charging status and tire pressure. Some EVs even have self-driving and summoning capabilities. However, the question arises: who has access to these features outside of the vehicle owner? 


Ford’s Patent Reveals Plans to Allow Financial Institutions to Control a Vehicle 

Ford recently published a patent that outlines systems and methods to repossess a vehicle through advanced tactics for financial institutions to control a vehicle’s system and enable the process of repossessing a car. The patent offers a solution to an uncooperative owner who may attempt to impede the repossession operation by enabling the vehicle to repossess itself. 

Before your new Ford makes its great escape and reaches the repossession stage, primary-use functionality components such as cruise control, automated window control, and infotainment systems can be remotely disabled. Secondary optional-use components like air conditioning and remote key fob controls can also be disabled. The repossession system computer can execute a multi-step repossession procedure by disabling some or all components for a certain period. If the owner fails to make payments, the computer can even activate the audio component, which acts as a terrible DJ, emitting an unpleasant sound whenever the owner is present in the vehicle, causing discomfort until payment is made. 

Lockout processes can also take place, which may only occur on weekends to avoid affecting the owner’s livelihood so they can make the payments. In emergencies, the repossession system computer can evaluate images from the vehicle’s cameras to detect emergency situations and communicate with medical facilities to dispatch medical aid. The patent also permits the evaluation of captured images to identify undesirable actions toward the vehicle. 

The electric vehicle market is still new and full of innovation. Automotive manufacturers strive to get ahead of their competition, and this Ford patent appears to be an example of that.  A company spokesperson said “We don’t 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.” The repossession patent was one of 13 Ford patents published on Feb. 23, 2023, alone. 


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