Ford seeks to patent technology to lock out drivers who fall behind on car payments

A newly published patent application from Ford has revealed that the US carmaker wants to be able to lock drivers out of their vehicles for non-payment and even allow the vehicle to be repossessed.

The patent document, which was acquired by Drive, was published in February 2023 and is titled “Systems and Methods for Vehicle Recovery,” which describes different methods that would be followed if the vehicle owner misses payments.


The application describes the installation of a “recovery system computer” that could disable “a function of one or more vehicle components,” including the air conditioning, and the radio could be turned on “incessant and unpleasant sound.” “whenever the owner is present in the vehicle”, or even placing the vehicle in a “locked state”, meaning it cannot be driven unless in an emergency, such as needing to go to the hospital.

Ford’s corporate logo is seen at the Brussels Motor Show, Belgium, January 9, 2020. (REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Reuters Photos)

No other automaker has recently attempted to patent a similar system, and indeed Ford’s patent cites no other legal document to explain its concept. Patent documents, especially applications like this do not necessarily represent an automaker’s intent to introduce the described feature, process, or technology into its vehicles. Ford may just be trying to protect this idea to do so. However, the document goes into a lot of detail about how such a system would work.

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According to the patent application, if your vehicle is connected to the internet in any way, this system could theoretically work on it. The application also describes a “recovery computer” that could be installed in future cars to make this system work smoothly, but also states that additional hardware does not necessarily need to be installed in the vehicle for it to work. “In some embodiments, the vehicle computer may be configured to perform some or all of the functions of the recovery system computer.” Basically, if your car already has an infotainment system set up to receive something like over-the-air updates, this could probably work without physical modifications.


The vehicle would issue several warnings before the system initiated an official recovery. If these warnings were ignored, the car could start to lose functionality before a repo. The first lost features would be minor inconveniences like “cruise control, automated window controls, automated seat controls, and some infotainment system components (radio, global positioning system (GPS), MP3 player, etc.)” Next level is more serious and includes the loss of things like “the air conditioning system, a remote key fob and an automatic door lock/unlock system”. Likewise, an “incessant and unpleasant sound” may be activated “whenever the owner is present in the vehicle.”

ford super

If the owner obstructs recovery efforts, the vehicle’s computer can “transmit a complaint to the computer associated with the police authority.”


According to The Drive, Ford’s application doesn’t mean the automaker will necessarily implement this technology, but instead protects its idea. With reports of autonomous vehicles, this technology could be years away.

Ford did not immediately respond for comment.

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