McDonald’s to end its AI drive-thru experiment following customer complaints

Artificial intelligence may be taking over some aspects of our lives, but one thing it will no longer control is the McDonald’s drive-thru.

In 2021, the fast food giant began a partnership with IBM where the two companies developed and deployed a technology that was supposed to simplify things for employees and speed up operations using voice-activated ordering.

As seen in multiple viral videos, the technology was not perfect.

“While there have been successes to date, we feel there is an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions more broadly,” Mason Smoot, chief restaurant officer for McDonald’s USA, told franchisees in a memo.

“After a thoughtful review, McDonald’s has decided to end our current partnership with IBM on AOT and the technology will be shut off in all restaurants currently testing it no later than July 26, 2024.”

The technology, which in 2021 McDonald’s claimed had an 85% accuracy rate, was active at 100 locations.

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Despite the high accuracy rate and the hopes of it improving service, when the AI-powered technology got the order wrong, it messed up big time, and customers were ready to share the mishaps on social media.

One video showed how the ordering system overhead another drive-thru station and placed nine iced teas on a customer’s order in addition to the hash brown, iced tea and a Coke they already ordered.

Another video showed a customer “fighting with a McDonald’s robot” to order a large water and a vanilla ice cream, only for the system to add cream packets instead.

It then added ketchup packets and butter.

While McDonald’s and IBM have ended the Automated Order Taker experiment, the fast food giant hopes to still be able utilize artificial intelligence in the future.

“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,” the company told Business Insider.

Have you ever used McDonald’s automated order taker to place an order? How did it go?

If you haven’t, would you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments on Facebook!


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