McDonalds' experiment with AI-powered drive-thru falls flat. Here's why

  • The automated order taking system was put in place to improve efficiency at McDonalds drive-thrus. It did the near opposite.
File photo used for representational purpose: A worker at McDonalds hands a customer a Happy Meal at a drive-through in Augusta,
File photo used for representational purpose: A worker at McDonalds hands a customer a Happy Meal at a drive-through in Augusta,

With artificial intelligence or AI making its presence felt in a wide spectrum of global operations, McDonald’s felt it was obvious that it would incorporate an AI system to enhance its drive-thru operations. And as many as 100 outlets across the US were even fitted with an automated order taking (AOT) system. But all of these would now be taken off. Why? Blame tones, accents and dialects.

The AOT system was incorporated by McDonald’s with assistance from tech major IBM and the idea essentially was for it to hear spoken orders by the occupants of a vehicle in a drive-thru, process the orders placed and allowing for quicker and simpler order fulfilment. What may have happened is the near opposite.

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Fast food but served slow? What went wrong

As per a CNBC report, instead of simplifying and quickening the process, the AOT system often complicated the process because of instances when it failed to understand various tones, accents and dialects. This also affected the accuracy of orders placed with customers ending up with food different from what they may have ordered.

Also Read : This McDonald’s breaks record for serving most cars driving through a drive-thru

While neither McDonald’s or IBM has issued an official statement regarding the matter, the fast-food giant remains optimistic about AI being incorporated into various systems it uses. In the past, this has invited ire of people at large and especially on social media where McDonald’s is accused of looking at reducing its workforce and replacing actual employees with AI. The company, however, maintains that it is to primarily increase efficiency at its outlets.

First Published Date: 19 Jun 2024, 10:48 AM IST

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