This Car Vending Machine in China Is Free—But Only If You Have a High "Social Credit Score"
China's "social credit system" is just beginning to take shape, and it's already led to side effects that would feel natural in dystopian fiction. As The Verge reports, Ford and Alibaba have teamed up to open a multi-level, cat-themed car vending machine that allows users to test-drive a car for free—but only if they have a high social credit score, based on their government-assigned reputation.
The site, dubbed the "Super Test-Drive Center," is located in the Chinese city of Guangzhou. Customers with a social credit score of 700 or higher can use the Tmall app to select the car they wish to test drive, put down a deposit, schedule a time for pick-up, and submit a selfie so they can access the center later via facial recognition. After verifying their identity, the unmanned structure dispenses the car from one of the levels. Drivers can use the vehicle for up to three days and return it to get their deposit back with zero cost to them.
Customers with a social credit score that dips below 700, however, don't receive the same offer. Unlike a credit score in the U.S., which is an assessment of financial behavior, China's system measures a citizen based on personal behaviors from their everyday life. Failing to show up to a restaurant without canceling a reservation, playing video games for too long, and jaywalking can all damage someone's social credit. On a broader scale, this could hurt their chances at buying a home or getting a job, but in the case of the Super Test-Drive Center, it means they'll have to pay a fee to take out a vehicle.
As The Verge points out, the whole operation is reminiscent of a Black Mirror episode, complete with a cutesy cartoon character serving as the face of it. If the car vending machine concept takes off, there are other places that could serve as the model: Carvana in Nashville, for example, uses a coin-op gimmick that feels more 1950s than 1984.
[h/t The Verge]