WTF Fun Fact 13431 – Ford’s Self-Repossessing Truck

In a move that could revolutionize the automotive industry, Ford has patented a system enabling self-repossessing trucks. Through connectivity and automation, these vehicles could potentially drive themselves back to the dealer in the event of missed payments.

This idea of autonomous repossession is a powerful example of how technology is reshaping our world.

Self-repossessing trucks in the patent stage

The patent, as reported by The Verge, illustrates a system in which a vehicle can determine if it’s subject to repossession based on data received from a remote source. It’s not yet a reality.

However, in the future, a car could disable its own engine or even navigate itself back to the lender, provided it’s safe and legal to do so.

While this might sound dystopian to some, it’s essential to consider the problem this solution aims to address. Traditional repossession methods are far from perfect. They can lead to conflicts, damages, or, in some cases, even legal issues. Autonomous repossession could potentially eliminate these complications, making the process smoother for all parties involved.

But wait, there’s more!

But, Ford’s self-repossessing trucks patent doesn’t stop there. The documentation suggests that these vehicles could also potentially find and connect with a tow truck for assistance if self-driving to the dealer isn’t possible. The vehicle’s systems could even schedule a convenient pick-up time with the towing company, streamlining the entire process.

However, such a concept isn’t without its concerns. Critics argue that autonomous repossession could pose privacy risks. After all, the technology requires tracking and controlling vehicles remotely, raising questions about data security and personal privacy. Ford, along with all automakers pursuing such technologies, will need to address these concerns as development progresses.

Will it really work?

Furthermore, the actual implementation of this system in real-world conditions is another challenge. Various laws regulate vehicle repossession, which differ from state to state, and the legality of a self-repossessing car is still untested. Therefore, while the patent is granted, the road to seeing self-repossessing cars in action might be long and winding.

Ford’s self-repossessing car patent is a clear reflection of our changing times. It encapsulates both the remarkable potential of automation and connectivity, and the complex challenges that come along. It’s a compelling narrative of how technology continues to reimagine our world and how we must navigate the balance between innovation and privacy, efficiency and legality.

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Source: “Ford’s self-repossessing car patent is a nightmare of the connected-car future” — The Verge

WTF Fun Fact 13199 – The Nike Waffle Iron Story

Do you know the Nike waffle iron story? They’re two things that seem to have nothing in common. However, the first pair of Nike sneakers were made in a waffle iron. The company patented the design as the “Nike Waffle” in 1974.

The weird Nike waffle iron story

The design for the sole of the first Nike shoe was created by a co-founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman, who was a track coach at the University of Oregon. Bowerman was always looking for ways to improve the performance of his athletes.

One day, while making waffles for breakfast, he noticed the unique pattern on the waffle iron and had an idea to create a shoe sole with a similar pattern. He experimented with pouring liquid urethane into his wife’s waffle iron and the Waffle sole was born.

Nike named the shoe the “Nike Waffle Trainer” and introduced it in 1974.

It was a revolutionary design that provided excellent traction and durability. It quickly became a favorite among athletes.

Nike makes its mark

The Nike Waffle Trainer was a success for Nike in the 1970s. It helped establish the company as a major player in the athletic shoe market.

Top runners wore the shoe and helped Nike become known as a company that produced high-performance athletic footwear.

Nike not only patented the design but used the waffle sole in many of their other shoe models in the following years. The Waffle Trainer was one of the first shoes that Nike marketed as a performance shoe.

Nike still produces shoes with waffle soles. But they’re not as common as they were in the 1970s.

The company still uses the Waffle sole design in some of the company’s retro releases of the Waffle Trainer and other models like the Nike Waffle Racer. The waffle sole is also used in some of Nike’s newer running shoes since it provides excellent traction and durability.

While the Waffle Trainer is not as prevalent as it was in the past, it remains an iconic and important shoe in the company’s history and is still popular among some sneaker enthusiasts.

The cost of a Nike Waffle shoe can vary depending on the specific model. For example, the retail price of the Waffle Racer, which is one of the most popular models of the Waffle series, is around $85. However, prices can be higher or lower depending on the colorway, edition, and other factors. Retro releases of the Waffle Trainer can be more expensive, as they are considered collectible items and can be sold at a premium price. Prices for these retro releases can be anywhere from $100 to $200 or even more, depending on the condition of the shoe and its rarity.

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Source: “How a Dirty Old Waffle Iron Became Nike’s Holy Grail” — Popular Mechanics

WTF Fun Fact 12789 – Volvo’s Seat Belt Patent

Volvo engineer Nils Bohlin saved countless lives by inventing the V-type three-point safety belt in 1959. And while the Swedish car company could have made millions by licensing the design to their competitors, they decided to gift the design to the world instead of patenting it for themselves.

The story of the seat belt

The two-point (over the waist) seat belt already existed at the time, but for those of us who remember them, they could manage to do harm even at a hard stop. And those weren’t even a standard feature in most cars!

Volvo’s president at the time, Gunnar Engellau, lost a relative to a traffic accident in which the seat belt was part of the problem. It was his loss that inspired him to find the best engineer possible to build a better seat belt.

Interestingly, that engineer happened to work for rival car company Saab. But Engellau managed to hire away Nils Bohlin and tapped him to work exclusively on the new design.

The story of the patent

Car companies patent all of their designs. If they’re good, other car companies have to pay to license them for their own vehicles. If other companies try to copy patented designs, they get sued. A U.S. patent, for example, gives you a 20-year monopoly right over a design.

But the engineers knew that this wasn’t the right thing to do. They had invented something to protect human welfare and retaining exclusivity meant everyone would have to buy a Volvo to be safe.

Engellau knew that wouldn’t happen.

Yes, they took out a patent on the design to give credit where credit was due, but Volvo then gifted the design to all other rival car companies.

As Forbes (cited below) put it: “Having sponsored the R&D, they gifted their designs to competitors, to encourage mass adoption and to save lives.”

Imagine that.

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Source: “Volvo’s Gift To The World, Modern Seat Belts Have Saved Millions Of Lives” — Forbes

WTF Fun Fact 12788 – Monopoly, The Landlord’s Game

Charles Darrow is credited with inventing the board game Monopoly, but even he wasn’t aware of the real inventor of the game. Lizzie Magie invented Monopoly, only she called it “The Landlord’s Game.”

The Landlord’s Game becomes Monopoly

In 1932, Charles Darrow was playing a real-estate board game with friends. It wasn’t a game you could buy in a box, but one that was passed between friends who made their own boards. Darrow presumably had no clue it had been invented by a progressive feminist writer named Lizzie Magie nearly three decades earlier. She had called it The Landlord’s Game, but it was colloquially known as “the monopoly game.”

Darrow was so taken with it that he asked for a set of rules and took the idea to Parker Brothers. Then he seems to have taken credit for inventing it altogether, which helped him make millions in royalties.

According to The Guardian (cited below), “one journalist after another asked him how he had managed to invent Monopoly out of thin air – a seeming sleight of hand that had brought joy into so many households. ‘It’s a freak,’ Darrow told the Germantown Bulletin, a Philadelphia paper. ‘Entirely unexpected and illogical.'”

The Real “Monopoly”

Magie wrote about her game in a political magazine in the early 20th century, noting: “It is a practical demonstration of the present system of land-grabbing with all its usual outcomes and consequences. It might well have been called the ‘Game of Life’, as it contains all the elements of success and failure in the real world, and the object is the same as the human race in general seem to have, ie, the accumulation of wealth.”

She created two sets of rules – “an anti-monopolist set in which all were rewarded when wealth was created, and a monopolist set in which the goal was to create monopolies and crush opponents,” according to The Guardian’s story about a book on the history of the game titled, The Monopolists: Obsession, Fury, and the Scandal Behind the World’s Favorite Board Game by Mary Pilon.

Magie had even patented the game and published a version through the Economic Game Company. It was popular among progressive intellectuals, but interestingly enough, the monopolist’s rules became far more popular.

The real Monopoly

Magie wasn’t sure what to think when Parker Brothers approached her about buying the rights to the game for $500 after they were approached by Darrow, but she did sell them. Only later did she find out why they wanted to buy them. And she never received any of the millions in royalties that Darrow did. Nor did she receive any of the credit until recently.

According to The Guardian, “She died in 1948, a widow with no children, whose obituary and headstone made no mention of her game invention. One of her last jobs was at the US Office of Education, where her colleagues knew her only as an elderly typist who talked about inventing games.”

Today, Parker Brothers is owned by Hasbro, which still credits Darrow with inventing the game in 1935.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The secret history of Monopoly: the capitalist board game’s leftwing origins” — The Guardian

WTF Fun Fact 12570 – The Telephone’s Real Inventor

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was one of a handful of men who were working on a machine that transmitted vocal communications telegrphically. But we only remember him because he got to the patent office first (and he was already a well-known inventor).

Historians and government officials have since reexamined the research and found that Bell wasn’t actually the first to create the world-changing technology. That honor goes to an Italian-American immigrant and mechanical genius from Florence, Antonio Meucci.

In fact, in 2002, U.S. Congress recognized an impoverished Florentine immigrant as the inventor of the telephone rather than Alexander Graham Bell. The Guardian reported, “Historians and Italian-Americans won their battle to persuade Washington to recognize a little-known mechanical genius, Antonio Meucci, as a father of modern communications, 113 years after his death.”

“It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be recognized, and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged,” the resolution stated. (You can read the resolution (107th Congress, H Res 269) on

While you might think there was a mad dash to the patent office, it’s actually the case that 16 years went by between Meucci’s demonstration of his “teletrofono” in New York in 1860 and Graham’s 1876 patent.

However, it was Bell’s telephone design that ended up being used to create the first telephones, so he does deserve some pretty massive credit. It’s just that Meucci deserves some and well and never really gets it.

The title of the most annoyed competitor of Bell’s likely goes to Elisha Gray, a professor at Oberlin College. He actually sent his lawyer to the patent office on the same day. Bell’s lawyer got to the desk first on February 14, 1876. His filing was the fifth entry of the day, while Gray’s lawyer was 39th. The U.S. Patent Office awarded Bell with the first patent for a telephone (US Patent Number 174,465).

Some historians actually claim that Bell knew what was happening and may have bribed someone at the patent office to doctor documents showing his patent came in first, but we’ll probably never know. – WTF Fun Fact

Source: “Who is credited with inventing the telephone?” — Library of Congress

WTF Fun Fact – Best Selling Toy

WTF Fun Fact - Best Selling Toy

The world’s best selling toy is the Rubik’s Cube. Over 350 million cubes have been sold – 200 million between 1980 when it was first introduced and 1983. The patent expired in 2000 leading to a number of new cube concepts. – WTF Fun Facts