Remote Repossession

Who needs the repo man if carmakers have the e-po man?  I’m Amy E. Feldman.

You know those commercials for cars that let you lock your car from your cell phone if you’ve forgotten? Sounds cool. But maybe not so much when you hear that Ford recently applied for a patent that will let the carmaker lock down your car or shut off use of the key fob, air conditioning, or other key features if you don’t pay your bill.

It’s basically remote repo, and it’s a lesson in the Internet of Things, how things you buy connect to the internet giving them greater functionality, but also changing how we think about ownership because when you buy something you assume you own it. But what is “it”? You might still have the thing you bought but if the maker can remotely shut off your access to its capability, it’s useless. So before you buy, understand the terms of your ownership, the timing of your payments, and the maker’s ability to shut it down or that car becomes a couch on wheels that don’t roll.

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