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McDonalds removes AI drive-throughs after order errors – BBC News



McDonalds removes AI drive-throughs after order errors – BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

  • Author, Tom Gerken
  • Role, Technology reporter

McDonald’s is removing artificial intelligence (AI) powered ordering technology from its drive-through restaurants in the US, after customers shared its comical mishaps online.

A trial of the system, which was developed by IBM and uses voice recognition software to process orders, was announced in 2019.

It has not proved entirely reliable, however, resulting in viral videos of bizarre misinterpreted orders ranging from bacon-topped ice cream to hundreds of dollars worth of chicken nuggets.

“After thoughtful review, McDonald’s has decided to end our current global partnership with IBM on AOT [Automated Order Taking] beyond this year,” the restaurant chain said in a statement.

However, it added it remained confident the tech would still be “part of its restaurants’ future.”

“We 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 statement said.

The technology has been controversial from the outset, though initially concerns centred on its potential to make people’s jobs obsolete.

However, it has become apparent that replacing human restaurant workers may not be as straightforward as people initially feared – and the system’s backers hoped.

The AI order-taker’s mishaps have been documented online.

In one video, which has 30,000 views on TikTok, a young woman becomes increasingly exasperated as she attempts to convince the AI that she wants a caramel ice cream, only for it to add multiple stacks of butter to her order.

In another, which has 360,000 views, a person claims that her order got confused with one being made by someone else, resulting in nine orders of tea being added to her bill.

IBM said it would continue to work with McDonald’s in the future.

“This technology is proven to have some of the most comprehensive capabilities in the industry, fast and accurate in some of the most demanding conditions,” it said in a statement.

“While McDonald’s is re-evaluating and refining its plans for AOT we look forward to continuing to work with them on a variety of other projects.”

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