No more repo agents? | WORLD
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No more repo agents?

QUICK TAKES | Car company’s novel patent would target delinquent loan customers

Illustration by Matt Rota

No more repo agents?
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In the future, if customers don’t pay their Ford vehicle loans on time, the car might repossess itself. Ford Global Technologies filed a patent application with the United States government in 2021 for a system that Ford could use to direct automobiles back to a specified parking lot for repossession in the event of nonpayment. According to the patent application, which was made public in February, the system under development would lead nonpaying customers through a series of escalations, such as having the car’s audio system play unpleasant sounds until a payment is made. According to the patent, Ford could also remotely lock owners out of their vehicles. As a final option, the company imagines using self-driving technology to remove the vehicle from private property so the lender could reclaim it.

Passport problem

A group of British teenagers had to extend their U.S. vacation after their New Hampshire hotel tossed out their passports. More than 40 students from Barr Beacon School in Walsall, U.K., had been skiing on a school trip to New Hampshire when hotel workers accidentally threw 41 of their passports into a dumpster whose contents were later destroyed. School staffers had to extend the trip by four days and work with the British Embassy to expedite their return. While waiting for emergency passports, the students toured New York City with school chaperones before flying back home March 1.

Feline superhero

First responders are crediting a cat for helping to find a man who fell over a waterfall. Family of the Pleasant Valley, Calif., man noticed he was missing Feb. 21. While searching, the unidentified man’s wife and some neighbors heard repeated meows from the family’s outdoor cat. The cat meowed until the search party arrived at the very place the missing man had tumbled down a 30-foot seasonal waterfall. Emergency crews found the man in the creek below and took him by helicopter to the hospital.

Not a hill of beans

Someone spilled the beans. Authorities in Greene County, Tenn., responded to the scene of an overturned tractor-trailer Feb. 27 along an East Tennessee highway. Emergency crews found the roadway and shoulder blanketed with gallon-sized cans of Bush’s Baked Beans. The cache had departed a Bush’s facility earlier that day. According to a county spokesperson, the trailer’s entire 51,000-pound load ended up on the road after the trailer tipped over when the driver struck a utility pole.

Powder puzzle

A mysterious powder wafted into parts of West Virginia the evening of Feb. 23 and covered cars and outdoor surfaces with a dry film by morning. The anomaly, which was most pronounced in the state’s panhandle, prompted complaints to state authorities, who initiated an investigation. In response to online speculation, a Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson said there was no evidence linking the West Virginia powder to the earlier derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals in Ohio. By Feb. 27, state environmental officials announced the mysterious powder was simply pollen produced by local plants.

Time for the moon

With a growing number of lunar missions scheduled in the next few years, the European Space Agency said it’s time for the moon to get its own time. ESA navigation system engineer Pietro Giordano announced in February plans to create a specific time zone for Earth’s only natural satellite. Keeping time on the moon creates some logistical challenges. Because of the moon’s lower gravity, clocks run faster there, gaining 56 microseconds per day compared to terrestrial clocks. After 50 years, a moon clock would race a full second ahead of an Earth clock. Giordano said establishing official moon time would require an international effort.

Insect bites

Most Germans like vanilla and chocolate ice cream. But the proprietor of Eiscafé Rino, a small ice cream shop in southern Germany, has bet that some Germans will adopt a taste for insects. Thomas Micolino, who has a history of interesting offerings at his Rottenburg am Neckar ice cream parlor, recently introduced a new cricket-flavored scoop. Micolino said sales have been brisk thus far: “Those who try it are very enthusiastic. I have customers who come here every day and buy a scoop.” Micolino said he uses cricket flour to flavor the ice cream and serves a scoop with dried whole crickets on the top.


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