McMishaps: McDonald’s nixes AI drive-thrus after multiple viral mix-ups

Lifestyle

McDonald’s will be eliminating its artificial intelligence (AI) drive-thru technology from over 100 restaurants in the U.S. after the systems repeatedly annoyed guests by fumbling orders and mistaking instructions.

The AI, called the “Automated Order Taker,” was implemented in partnership with IBM in 2021.

Now, in a memo sent to franchisees this month, the fast-food giant announced plans to end the test-run without further expansion as of yet, the industry publication Restaurant Business reported.

The AI will be shut off in all restaurants by no later than July 26. (AI drive-thrus were not tested in Canada.)

Many customers who tried to order from the McDonald’s AI-powered drive-thru recorded their difficulties and shared the experiences to social media. In the videos, hungry patrons often grew frustrated with the AI as it added unnecessary items to simple orders, like ketchup and butter packets paired with what should have been only ice cream.

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Another social media user found the AI’s blunder much more amusing and laughed raucously as the drive-thru technology added hundreds of dollars in chicken nuggets to her order.

One patron recorded the drive-thru screen as a McDonald’s employee had to overtake the AI system and complete an order the software could not understand.

@that_usa_guy

Trying the McDonald’s AI drive thru….Again @McDonald’s Corporate #fail

♬ original sound – Dal JustDal

CNBC reported the AI drive-thru tech allegedly struggled to understand different accents and dialects, and experienced difficulty distinguishing orders from background noise or nearby conversations.


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McDonald’s and IBM have not commented on the overall accuracy of the axed AI, but in 2021, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said the tech reported about an 85 per cent accuracy rate in recognizing orders. In its memo to franchisees, McDonald’s did not rule out future use of AI-powered drive-thru technology — despite repeated public insistence that the implementation could eliminate jobs.

In defence of using the Automated Order Taker, McDonald’s told Restaurant Business the AI test-run was completed to determine if it could speed up service and simplify operations.

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“As we move forward, our work with IBM has given us the confidence that a voice-ordering solution for drive-thru will be part of our restaurants’ future,” a statement from McDonald’s reads. “We see tremendous opportunity in advancing our restaurant technology and will continue to evaluate long-term, scalable solutions that will help us make an informed decision on a future voice ordering solution by the end of the year.”

McDonald’s suggested they would seek a different partnership outside of IBM to create and execute a new Automated Ordering System in the future.

At least for now, it’ll still be humans flipping burgers and taking chicken nugget orders under the golden arches.


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