Ford’s giant ‘car vending machine’ is now open for business in China

We first heard about the extraordinary “car vending machine” at the end of last year. Now, Ford and Alibaba, who teamed up to design the system, have flipped the switch on the massive machine so that people can try it out for real.

It’s located in Guangzhou, China, and offers a range of vehicles for three-day test drives. The five-story contraption, which holds 42 vehicles in all, is essentially a Ford-branded garage with rotating platforms, similar in design to parking garages commonly seen in Japanese cities and other countries in Asia.

You can begin the transaction via an app before turning up to collect the car from the vending machine, dubbed the “Super Test-drive Center.”

There’s no human interaction during the process. You simply browse the app for the car you’d like to take out for a spin — the guy in the video above opts for a Ford Mustang — and then take a selfie. This enables the vending machine’s facial recognition technology to confirm your booking, and presumably also gives the cops a decent image to work with should you fail to return the car.

When you arrive at the Super Test-drive Center, you’ll need to tap on the digital display so the machine can match your face with your car selection. No, the car doesn’t drop into a tray like a regular vending machine. That would be daft. And a little costly for Ford.

Instead, the machinery grinds into action, with your chosen vehicle brought down to ground level in just a few minutes. The system lets you test up to two cars consecutively, which ensures you don’t end up “test driving” Ford cars for life rather than making an actual purchase.

If you have a decent credit score — calculated according to previous Alipay transactions — you can try out the cars for free. Otherwise you’ll have to pay a fee, though exactly how much isn’t immediately clear.

Ford announced its partnership with Alibaba at the end of 2017. The three-year deal offers the American automaker a chance to expand its presence in the Chinese market through Alibaba-owned Tmall, the country’s largest online shopping mall. Alibaba said it will work with Ford to “leverage digital channels to identify new retail opportunities [and] redefine how consumers purchase and own vehicles.” An enormous great vending machine in the middle of town is certainly a start.

Ford’s recently announced “China 2025 Plan” aims to introduce more than 50 all-new vehicles by 2025, including 15 electric vehicles.

Cars

Self-driving, electric, and connected, the cars of CES 2019 hint at the future

Car companies remained surprisingly quiet during CES 2018. But they spoke up in 2019. From electric hatchbacks you can buy in 2019 to super-futuristic mood-detecting technology, here are the major announcements we covered during the event.
Smart Home

The best sous vide machines cook your food perfectly, every single time

Want to make four-star meals from the comforts of your own kitchen? Here are the best sous vide machines available right now, whether you prefer simple immersion circulators or something more complex.
Computing

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.
Smart Home

The best washing machines make laundry day a little less of a chore

It takes a special kind of person to love doing laundry, but the right machine can help make this chore a little easier. Check out our picks for the best washing machines on the market right now.
Cars

Nissan IMs concept teases a future long-range, autonomous electric car

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Nissan IMs is an electric car with a 380-mile range, autonomous-driving capability, and a backseat designed for being chauffeured. Too bad it's just a concept car.
Cars

The 2020 Lexus RC F goes on a diet to run faster and hit harder

The Lexus RC F has been one of the heavier cars in its competitive set since its introduction. The Japanese firm's engineers set out to shed weight as they gave the model a mid-cycle update.
Cars

Lexus LC convertible concept teases a new open-air flagship

Debuting at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, the Lexus LC convertible concept adds open-air motoring to the sleek LC's resume. But Lexus won't commit to a production version of the car just yet.
Cars

Fast and Furious fans get revved up: Toyota’s Supra sports car is back

The 2020 Toyota Supra made its long-awaited debut at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show. The resurrected sports car, famous for a role in The Fast and the Furious, goes on sale in the U.S. this summer.
Cars

Muscle cars, trucks, and EVs roared into the subdued 2019 Detroit Auto Show

The 2019 Detroit Auto Show was the quietest edition of the event in recent memory, but that doesn't mean nothing significant happened inside the Cobo Center. Here are the new cars and concepts we saw at the show.
Cars

Big tech, bigger grille: BMW updates its 7 Series flagship for 2020

The BMW 7 Series will enter the 2020 model year with a host of updates inside, outside, and under the sheet metal. The new-look nose with a jumbo grille hides updated engines, while passengers benefit from smart tech features.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Cars

In McLaren’s 600LT Spider, the engine is the only sound system you’ll need

The McLaren 600LT Spider is the inevitable convertible version of the 600LT coupe, itself a lighter, more powerful version of the McLaren 570S. The 600LT Spider boasts a 592-horsepower, twin-turbo V8, and a loud exhaust system to hear it…
Cars

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.
News

Ford has a plan to future-proof the hot-selling F-150 pickup truck

Worried about the threat of rising gas prices, Ford will add the F-150 to its growing portfolio of electrified vehicles. It is currently developing a hybrid F-150, and it will release an electric version of the next-generation truck.