EMAILED ON March 27, 2018 BY Conor Grant

Alibaba uses social data to demo and sell cars from a giant, high-tech machine

Alibaba has partnered with Ford to launch a “Super Test-Drive Center” that dispenses cars from a giant cat-themed machine to socially qualified Alibabbites in just 10 minutes.

Storage advancements have increased the variety of stockable merchandise, while progress in facial scanning and wireless payment has eliminated security and payment challenges.

The result? An “intelligent vending” machine market that’s expected to hit nearly $12B by 2025.

More than just Cheez-Its and Mountain Dew 

Dozens of companies in China (and a few elsewhere) have created machines to vend everything from Instagram likes to live crabs.

Most companies either use over-the-top machines to promote luxury products — like the Ferrari machine in Singapore — or practical ones to sell convenience products — like the crab machine in a Nanjing subway.

But the Big Ali-B wants both — and recently announced partnerships with Volvo, Mercedes, Maserati, BMW and Audi.

Car vending for the (socially worthy) people 

Alibaba uses social credit (determined by factors like bill payment, commitment to elder care, and time spent video gaming) to decide who test-drives cars for free and who pays a fee.

Qualified Alibaba customers (with a 700+ rating) scan their face in Alibaba’s Tmall app and drive off with a car for a 3-day test drive — all without dropping a dime or seeing a human.

For everyone else, there’s fresh crab.