Ford gets Tough with patent for "Repo-Bot" Technology - Week in Repair
"Ford Tough" is taking on new meaning with patent for a self-impounding vehicle. Also: Mass AG moves to enforce expanded auto repair law. And Sonos replaces glues with screws in new speakers.
Excited for self-driving cars? You’re in luck. Ford has applied for a patent for some dazzling new tech—a car that drives itself to the impound lot if you’re late on your payments!
The patent describes a variety of procedures for repossessing cars when payments are delinquent, including:
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sending messages to the owner's smartphone or the vehicle itself
locking drivers out of the car entirely
disabling functions like air conditioning
geofencing drivers to only operate within a certain time or set area
The system also includes enabling an autonomous car to drive itself to an impound lot or a junkyard if the car's market value is determined to be below a certain threshold.
This might seem like bleak speculation about the future that won’t actually happen, but the trend of companies chipping away at the power of people is already “a thing.” Some examples:
Volkswagen refused to help locate a kidnapped child because the mother had not paid for the "find-my-car" subscription after the free trial period expired. It turns out that VW contracted out the car location service to a third party firm that could not locate the kidnapped child.
Mercedes has put vehicle acceleration behind a paywall. That’s right. As The Drive reported, buyers of the new Mercedes EQ electric models will have to pay a $1,200 (plus tax) yearly subscription to unlock the full performance potential of their cars.
Apple announced its SOS satellite service stops being free after two years (seems like an incentive to buy that new phone).
BMW has sold heated seat subscriptions for $18 a month, as if they couldn’t have lumped that in with their cars for free?
The message is clear: car companies are attaching more strings to their products. That’s turning automobiles - an icon of 20th century freedom and individual liberty- into snitching, scheming surveillance devices that might just up and drive away on us when its maker deems it appropriate. Look for this trend to continue - and not just with cars, but pretty much anything that’s connected to the internet.
(Our recent post CarDom imagines what some of these future subscriptions might look like!)
Massachusetts AG will enforce expanded auto repair law — More than two years after they passed a ballot measure expanding their state’s automobile right to repair law to include access to wireless telematics data, Massachusetts voters have yet to be able to exercise their hard-won right, as a federal judge has repeatedly delayed a ruling in the case. But that wait is coming to an end, with the State’s newly elected Attorney General indicating her office will begin enforcing the law as of June 1st. “The people of Massachusetts deserve the benefit of the law they approved more than two years ago,” said Campbell, in a notice filed in US District Court in Boston. “Consumers and independent repair shops deserve to know whether they will receive access to vehicle repair data in the manner provided by the law. Auto manufacturers and dealers need to understand their obligations under the law and take action to achieve compliance.” (Boston Globe)
Sonos replaces glues with screws — The smart speaker maker has raised the ire of right to repair advocates in the past. It said in 2020 that it would stop supporting its older speakers with software updates - dooming many to an early grave. Refurbishers also complained about the company’s “Recycle Mode,” an irreversible 21-day countdown that once initiated, permanently blacklists a speaker from Sonos’s servers. But Sonos may be making progress, with its new speakers replacing glued in components with actual screws, making the speakers much easier to maintain. (Fast Company)
Consumer Reports supports Washington State right to repair bill — Consumer Reports issued a press release announcing its support for the Fair Repair Act (ESHB1392), a digital right to repair bill introduced in the Washington state legislature. The bill, sponsored by Representative Mia Gregerson, recently advanced out of the state House with bipartisan support. CR is urging the state Senate to advance the bill. “This bill will save Washingtonians money and ensure they can choose the best repair shops in the marketplace,” said Laurel Lehman, policy analyst at Consumer Reports. “With continued economic uncertainty, now is the time that legislators should step up and safeguard consumers’ ability to exercise their full ownership rights over the electronics they purchase—including the right to repair and resell them, even as technology evolves.”
Lina Khan is taking swings at Big Tech — under Khan…one of the FTC’s more rowdy fights has been around "Right to Repair" rules that are centered on the idea people should be able to fix their broken gadgets, rather than be forced to buy new ones. The FTC has ramped up law enforcement against companies that have repair restrictions. Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google have all lobbied to quash "Right to Repair" laws on the state level. Any new FTC rules could boost those state laws and require the companies to provide nationwide repair programs. (WSIU)
While people support the circular economy in theory, a new study shows they rarely implement them in their everyday lives. This isn’t to say the problem lies with consumers, but the study shows a particular reluctance to share consumer goods with others, buy used products, or have items repaired.
The study recommends strengthening the demand for used goods through financial incentives and information campaigns.
Disposable and cheap clothing might be forgotten about when it’s thrown away in richer parts of the world, but the impact of “fast fashion” is being felt in the developing world. Used clothing from Europe is filling landfill sites in countries like Kenya, under the pretext of circularity or charity.
At least one-third of the 112 million used garments that the EU ships to Kenya each year are immediately burned as fuel, poisoning the air, soil, and water.
A short film about the Repair Cafe movement has been released by BBC Earth. For this film, local camera teams shot at three locations: in Amsterdam, Lisbon, and New York City.
Both Griffth University in the UK and Feilding, NZ are opening repair cafés—proof of a global movement.
$4.8 million to explore how design can reduce waste and extend the useful life of products has been announced by the government of the Austrailian state Victorian Government—home to 6.5 million people.
📡 Repair Legislation Radar
Washington’s Fair Repair Act (HB 1392), which would require manufacturers to allow consumers and independent repair shops access to parts, tools and information necessary to fix electronic devices passed, and now advances to the state senate.
Most states need to pass laws through two votes, once through the House of Representatives and once through the Senate
Colorado’s Consumer Right To Repair Agricultural Equipment (HB23-1011) has passed a vote in the House and will move on to the Senate’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
Only two Republican lawmakers supported the legislation, with opponents citing business and intellectual property concerns.