McDonald’s to Shut Down AI-powered Drive-Thru Orders in US

McDonald’s to Shut Down AI-powered Drive-Thru Orders in US

McDonald’s will end its AI-powered drive-thru orders in the US. 

The firm has informed its franchise owners that it plans to end its partnership with IBM by 26 July 2024. The fast-food chain will discontinue drive-thru, automated order-taking in more than 100 eateries. It has been evaluating the system since it collaborated with IBM in 2021.

Even though McDonald’s collaboration with IBM on the Automated Order Taker project has concluded, the fast-food giant has indicated that it will keep looking into ways technology can enhance its operations.

“As we move forward, our work with IBM has given us the confidence that a voice-ordering solution for drive-thru will be part of our restaurants’ future,” McDonald’s said.

Furthermore, McDonald’s said, “We see tremendous opportunity in advancing our restaurant technology and 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.”

“Although there have been achievements, there are numerous chances to explore voice-ordering options more extensively,” said Mason Smoot, Chief Restaurant Officer at McDonald’s USA.

“IBM has given us confidence that a voice ordering solution for drive-thru will be part of our restaurant’s future, and we want to sincerely thank IBM and the restaurant teams that have been part of this crucial test,” Smoot said.

McDonald’s decision to close its AI drive-thru system raises concerns about AI’s place in the fast-food sector. Although AI has the capability to revolutionise how services are provided, it needs to be advanced enough to manage the issues with human interaction.

Previously, Google teamed up with Wendy’s for a drive-thru AI experiment, leveraging its technology and has since broadened the scope of this trial. White Castle has also conducted tests with AI services from SoundHound, a speech recognition company.

This action by McDonald’s could encourage other businesses to rethink their own AI projects.

In December 2023, it was also reported that McDonald’s had made an artificial intelligence agreement with Google. Earlier indications pointed to a portion of this agreement being for a chatbot called “Ask Pickles,” which is designed to provide workers with advice on topics such as maintaining ice cream machines.

Setting up in a tech journey with IBM, McDonald’s goal was to make the drive-thru orders more efficient by using AI chatbots.

Notably, McDonald’s has not entirely reduced the possibility of implementing an AI-driven drive-thru system. This indicates that McDonald’s is looking forward to a new collaboration for order-taking services.