Monday, May 20

Did We Miss Something With Self-Driving Cars?

Did We Miss Something With Self-Driving Cars?

To beat other companies to the punch, it’s important automakers file for patents quickly. Ford recently added an interesting patent regarding self-driving cars.

The electric future has become a present reality, which allows us to know that we’ll see more EVs on the road over the next several years. The question many ask automakers is, “what’s next?” While many might answer with more efficient, cheaper EV batteries, others will offer the answer of moving toward self-driving cars. These autonomous vehicles seem pretty far in the future, but a recent Ford patent offers a unique scenario.

What does it mean for a car to be autonomous?

The automotive world already pushes the envelope with movement toward more advanced self-driving technology, but we’re a long way from truly autonomous vehicles. When this happens, cars will be able to drive themselves wherever you ask them to go. If you can imagine it, these cars will take the natural voice command of your destination and drive you directly to that location. This is the expectation of autonomous vehicles, but there might be something most of us haven’t thought of yet, and it’s an interesting function of these future vehicles.

How will your drive go?

When we have a world filled with self-driving cars, your drive to and from work will be a lot like riding on a bus, subway, or train right now. Typically, passengers using these public transportation options can sit back and allow the conductor or driver to handle the task of getting them to their destination and enjoy other tasks during the ride. The same will be true of your autonomous vehicle. You could ride from home to work while reading the latest news, watching a show, catching up with friends via video chat, or taking a nap.

What does the Ford patent cover for self-driving cars?

Ford Global Technologies applied for a patent with the U.S. Patent Office using the title “Systems and Methods to Repossess a Vehicle.” That’s right, future ford self-driving cars might have the capability to repossess themselves and drive, without your permission, to the predetermined repossession destination, also known as an impound lot. Can you imagine this? If you miss a set number of payments, your Ford will take itself to the impound lot. This will put repo guys out of business and create a whole new world where it’s much more important that you make your car payments every month.

What’s a more likely scenario?

Another way a future autonomous vehicle could take itself back to the lending institution is to set itself up for a tow truck. Many consumers that are in danger of having their car repossessed know about this challenge, and it will make it much harder for tow trucks to pick up the vehicle. With self-driving technology, a car could put itself where it will be much easier for the tow truck to load it up and take it to the impound lot. This is a much more likely use of this technology.

Could autonomous cars be shared?

The movement toward cars that can repossess themselves might be fleeting and may never see the light of day. This patent could be obsolete in a hurry simply because these autonomous vehicles could be easily shared among owners. Many shared cars could pick up various commutes or be offered on alternate weekends for driving fun. Some cities might have a fleet of the same autonomous vehicles to be hailed at a moment’s notice. This might mean the end of vehicle ownership altogether.

Will self-repossessing vehicles become a reality?

The change from human drivers to computers and online systems handling all the driving tasks might be a long way off, but many consumers might not have ever thought of what could happen if a vehicle can take itself back to the dealership or the impound lot. For new owners, this could be a good thing or regular vehicle service, but not if they’ve missed payments. We can certainly imagine a world where missing one payment could result in a vehicle being taken back within a month of the missed payment. As interesting as self-driving cars that can repossess themselves could be, it might raise more questions than answers.

Will Ford develop this technology for future self-driving cars, or will it be deemed illegal to include it in these vehicles?

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