Alibaba and Ford signed a deal to form a partnership last year that would see both companies working together on new technological opportunities. Now, the companies have opened a cat-themed car vending machine in Guangzhou, China, that lets customers easily test-drive Ford vehicles they’re looking to buy. The “Super Test-Drive Center” is an unstaffed, digital vending machine that works with the Tmall app. Users select the car model they’re interested in, put down a deposit electronically, schedule a pickup time, and snap a selfie so the vending machine can recognize them when they pick up the car for a test drive. The test drives are free, as long as customers have a very respectable credit score of 700 or above.
In China, the government rates citizens using a social ranking system. Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial’s credit ranking system is known as Zhima or Sesame Credit, and is an independent, opt-in, private credit scoring service. In an email to The Verge, Alibaba said users with a Zhima score below 700 will have to pay a fee. According to Wired, users start with a score of 550 when they have no transaction history, with scores ranging from 350 to 950.
And yes, there was indeed a Black Mirror episode about this type of societal ranking gone terribly wrong.
When they get to the vending machine, customers verify their identity, and the car is then dispensed from the multistory structure. The process is quick, and Alibaba says it lasts no longer than 10 minutes. Customers can drive the car for three days, testing the car in different scenarios like a normal commute, a trip to the grocery store, and a road trip if they wish. AutoBlog previously reported that Alibaba will build the kiosks across China and that customers could also buy the car outright with a 10 percent deposit and financing through Alibaba affiliates.
While the kiosk is both cute and convenient, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a car vending machine. A five-story, fully automatic one featuring oversized coins opened in Nashville back in 2015.