Alibaba is preparing to open its first smart gas station in its home city of Hangzhou, China by the end of the month.
According to news from Caixin Global, the unstaffed gas station will feature a robotic arm to fuel up the vehicles. The station will also have an unstaffed convenience store, a model that Alibaba showcased in July, which allows patrons to enter by scanning a QR code at the entrance, pick up their items and automatically pay at the checkout gate.
An updated version of the smart petrol station will launch next year, where information about the driver and his or her car — such as driver identity, car model and fuel product type — will be automatically recognized via artificial intelligence (AI).
Alibaba already has a presence in the petroleum sector. In 2015, it teamed up with the country’s largest refiner China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., known as Sinopec, to launch an online industrial supply system. Alibaba has also embedded the affiliated mobile payment tool Alipay in thousands of gas stations.
Besides the unmanned, robotics-enabled, QR code-ready convenience store and petrol station, Alibaba is also in the process of building its own shopping mall in April 2018, which will be five stories high and housed at Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China.
It will combine physical shopping with AI technology similar to its current brick-and-mortar Hema supermarket strategy, which enables visitors to shop for items with barcodes. After scanning the barcodes with a mobile device, users receive information about the products and recommendations for similar items. The barcodes work with Alibaba’s digital payment service Alipay, which can be used as a payment method at checkout.