Ford’s Giant ‘Car Vending Machine’ Is Now Open for Business in China.
Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba and U.S. carmaker Ford Motor have teamed up to create a massive car vending machine that dispenses vehicles to anyone interested in purchasing a Ford — assuming their “social credit score” is high enough.
The giant vending machine stocked full of the latest line of vehicles from Ford is located in Guangzhou, China. The machine is the product of a partnership agreed upon between Ford and Alibaba last year that would see the companies work together on new technological innovations.
Interested parties in China can approach the machine at any time to request a vehicle to test drive. The vending machine is unmanned and is operated entirely through Alibaba’s Tmall app, a shopping app for smartphones.
Through the app, consumers can select the model of vehicle they are interested in, schedule a pickup time and take a selfie that the vending machine will use to identify them when they arrive to pick up the vehicle for a test drive. Those interested in buying can even put down a deposit through the app.
There is one rather significant catch for those hoping to get behind the wheel of one of the Fords stocked in the vending machine: test drives are only available for free to potential buyers who have a “social credit score” of at least 700. Those with a score lower than that threshold are required to pay a fee.
The scoring system stems from the Chinese government’s social credit system, which provides ratings to people based on their behavior. Those with high scores in the system benefit from lower tax rates, more financial opportunities and other benefits like free test drives from the Ford vending machine.
Those with a lower score, caused by crime or other activity deemed unacceptable by the government, are punished. A recent report from the Telegraph indicated the credit system has already been used to ban more than 12 million Chinese people from traveling by plane in the country.
For those who qualify to use the machine, Ford and Alibaba have stocked it with 10 models of vehicles to choose from. The process of dispensing one takes about 10 minutes. Those interested in using the car vending machine will have to act fast, though, as it’s only in effect through April 23.