Top NewsMcDonald's completes trial run of AI-powered drive-throughs with IBM

McDonald’s completes trial run of AI-powered drive-throughs with IBM


NEW YORK (AP) — Ever messed up your McDonald’s order at an AI-powered drive-thru? The experiment behind the fast-food chain’s current automated order taker will soon end.

McDonald’s confirmed on Monday that it has decided to end its global partnership with IBM, which has been testing this artificial intelligence technology in select McDonald’s drive-throughs since 2021.

That doesn’t mean you won’t encounter some sort of chatbot while picking up fries in your car back home. As the IBM partnership for McDonald’s’ current automated order taker testing comes to an end, the Chicago-based firm suggested it has ruled out any other potential AI drive-through projects — “pointing to an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions. More broadly.”

“Our work with IBM has given us confidence that a voice ordering solution for the drive-thru will be part of the future of our restaurants,” McDonald’s said in a prepared statement this week — “and will continue evaluations to make an informed decision about a future voice ordering solution by the end of this year.”

Many fast-food chains have begun exploring the implementation of AI in recent years, with many pointing to the potential to increase speed and reduce costs.

In the US, Wendy’s partnered with Google Cloud to build a FreshAI chatbot. White Castle has teamed up with SoundHound AI with a goal of bringing voice-powered AI technology to more than 100 restaurants by the end of 2024. And a few Panera, RB’s and Popeyes locations have brought OpenCity’s “Tori” voice assistant to their order lanes.

Beyond the US, Popeyes UK launched its first AI-powered drive-thru (dubbed “Al”) last month, after the company said a pilot project was 97% accurate.

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The success of AI-powered drive-throughs has been mixed. McDonald’s automated order taker with IBM has received a number of complaints in recent years, for example — many took to social media to document the chatbot got their orders wrong.

One is 2023 TikTok, for example, a drive-thru assistant appears to display a place order after ordering McDonald’s chicken nuggets on a car’s tape, despite customers laughingly telling them to stop. Additional posts show a series of other mishaps — including the addition of strange extras like ice cream With ketchup and butteror taking orders from other nearby cars.

Anonymous sources familiar with the technology told CNBC The technology also has difficulty interpreting different accents and dialects, affecting order accuracy, among other challenges.

McDonald’s declined to comment on the accuracy of the automated order taker. In an initial statement, IBM said, “This technology has been proven to have the most comprehensive capabilities in the industry, being fast and accurate in some of the most demanding situations,” but did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on the specifications. Potential challenges.

New York-based technology company Armonk also said it is currently in “discussions and pilots” with several quick-service restaurant customers interested in automated order taking.

According to a trade publication Restaurant business And CNBC, which obtained a memo sent to franchisees last week, said automated ordering technology would be discontinued at McDonald’s locations “after July 26, 2024.”

While IBM and McDonald’s both ended their AI drive-thru partnership, the two will continue their relationship on other projects. McDonald’s said it still plans to use many of IBM’s products throughout its global organization.

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In December, McDonald’s A multi-year partnership began With Google Cloud. In addition to moving restaurant calculations from servers to the cloud, the partnership is also set to deploy AI that builds “across a number of key business priorities” in restaurants around the world.

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