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HomeWorldMcDonald’s is ending its test run of AI-powered drive-thrus with IBM

McDonald’s is ending its test run of AI-powered drive-thrus with IBM

NEW YORK — Have you ever mixed up your McDonald’s order at an AI-powered drive-thru? The experiment behind the fast food giant’s current automated order taker will soon come to an end.

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

That doesn’t mean you’ll never encounter a chatbot on the car ride home again while picking up fries. As the IBM partnership for McDonald’s current automated ordering test ends, the Chicago-based company suggested it isn’t ruling out other potential AI drive-thru plans in the future – pointing to “an opportunity to more explore voice ordering solutions” . wide.”

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

Numerous fast food chains have begun exploring the implementation of AI across operations in recent years, with many pointing to opportunities to maximize speed and reduce costs.

In the US, Wendy’s worked with Google Cloud to develop the chatbot ‘Wendy’s FreshAI’. White Castle partnered with SoundHound AI with the goal of bringing voice-enabled AI technology to more than 100 restaurants by the end of 2024. And a handful of Panera, Arby’s and Popeyes locations have brought OpenCity’s ‘Tori’ voice assistant to their ordering lanes.

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Outside America, Popeyes UK also launched its first AI-powered drive-thru (called “Al”) last month, after the company said a pilot program reported 97% accuracy.

The success of AI-powered drive-thrus has been mixed. For example, McDonald’s automated order taker at IBM received dozens of complaints in recent years, with many taking to social media to document that the chatbot was misinterpreting their orders.

One 2023 TikTok, appears to show the drive-thru assistant placing order after order of McDonald’s chicken nuggets on a car’s tab, despite customers laughingly asking them to stop. Additional posts show a range of other mishaps, such as adding strange extras like ice cream with ketchup and butteror collecting orders from other nearby cars.

Unnamed sources familiar with the technology told CNBC that the technology has had difficulty interpreting different accents and dialects, among other challenges that affect the accuracy of the sequence.

McDonald’s declined to comment on the accuracy of the automated order taker. In an initial statement, IBM said that “this technology has been proven to have some of the most comprehensive capabilities in the industry, quickly and accurately in some of the most demanding environments,” but did not immediately respond to a request for further comment on specific Affairs. of potential challenges.

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

According to trade publication Restaurant business and CNBC, which received a memo sent to franchisees last week, automated ordering technology will be disabled at McDonald’s locations for testing “no later than July 26, 2024.”

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Both IBM and McDonald’s claimed that while their AI drive-thru partnership was coming to an end, the two would continue their relationship on other projects. McDonald’s said it still plans to use many of IBM’s products in its global system.

McDonald’s in December started a multi-year collaboration with Google Cloud. In addition to moving restaurant calculations from servers to the cloud, the partnership also plans to apply generative AI “to a number of key business priorities” in restaurants around the world.

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