July 25, 2024

McDonald’s Abandons Test of Ineffective AI Drive-Thrus

Image: Jeff Chiu (AP)

McDonald’s will discontinue AI drive thrus entirely next month following the artificial intelligence experience falling short of expectations for both customers and the company.

The fast-food chain will terminate the Automated Order Taker program at all 100 pilot locations by July 27, as per a memo obtained by CNBC:

The global AI partnership started in 2021. The collaboration of technologies from the two companies aimed to streamline and expedite operations using voice-activated ordering.

“Although there have been achievements so far, we believe there is potential to explore voice ordering solutions more extensively,” stated the franchisee memo from Mason Smoot, senior vice president and chief restaurant officer for McDonald’s U.S. “After careful deliberation, McDonald’s has chosen to conclude our current alliance with IBM on AOT. … IBM continues to be a trusted partner and we will still utilize many of their other products throughout our system.”

Two sources familiar with the technology informed CNBC that one of its challenges was difficulty in understanding various accents and dialects, impacting order accuracy. McDonald’s refrained from commenting on accuracy or technology challenges, while IBM did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the tool’s accuracy.

McDonald’s and IBM collaborated in 2021 to develop the drive-thru AI technology for drive-thru ordering. Initially, the company praised it as a triumph with 85 percent order accuracy. However, that remaining 15 percent posed significant issues. Numerous online videos showcase the AI bots struggling with simple order requests or making mistakes, such as misinterpreting “no caramel” on a sundae as a request for a cream packet.

Insane AI chatbot fails at McDonald’s drive-through – what went wrong?

Watch this video of Wendy’s AI bot struggling to comprehend a customer’s request for extra cheese and pickles on their burger.

Trying Wendy’s AI Drive-Thru Technology

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What led to McDonald’s decision to end the AI drive-thru experiment?
  • How did McDonald’s and IBM originally plan to utilize AI technology in drive-thru services?
  • What were the main challenges faced by the AI drive-thru technology?

In conclusion, McDonald’s decision to discontinue the AI drive-thru program highlights the complexities and challenges of implementing advanced technologies in fast-food service. While AI has the potential to enhance efficiency and customer experience, it also requires careful consideration and adaptation to diverse customer needs and preferences. The partnership between McDonald’s and IBM serves as a learning experience for future advancements in AI-driven services in the food industry.

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