McDonald's Is Ending AI Drive-Thru Test

Chain is exploring 'voice ordering solutions more broadly' after end of IBM partnership
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 18, 2024 4:59 PM CDT
McDonald's Is Ending AI Drive-Thru Experiment
Drivers pull up to drive-thru kiosks to order outside a McDonald's restaurant in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

McDonald's says that after a "thoughtful review," it is calling time on its artificial intelligence drive-thru partnership with IBM. CNBC reports that the chain has told franchisees that the Automated Order Taker—AOT—technology will be shut down no later than July 26. The technology had been tested in more than 100 restaurants over the last two years, reports Restaurant Business. "We feel there is an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions more broadly," wrote Mason Smoot, chief restaurant officer for McDonald's USA.

"IBM remains a trusted partner and we will continue to utilize many of their other products across our system," Smoot told franchisees. In a statement to Fox Business, McDonald's said the work with IBM "has given us the confidence that a voice ordering solution for drive-thru will be part of our restaurants' future."

The chain said it was looking at "long-term, scalable solutions that will help us make an informed decision on a future voice ordering solution by the end of the year." Sources tell CNBC that the technology used in the partnership with IBM had trouble interpreting different accents and dialects, leading to inaccurate orders. (More McDonald's stories.)

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