McDonald’s Ends Experiment With Hilariously Bad AI Drive-Thrus

Image: Jeff Chiu (AP)
Image: Jeff Chiu (AP)

McDonald’s will ditch AI drive thrus completely next month after the artificial intelligence experience left a lot to be desired for both customers and company.

The burger giant will axe the program known as the Automated Order Taker at all 100 test locations by July 27, according to a memo obtained by CNBC:

The global AI partnership began in 2021. The combination of technologies from the two companies aimed to simplify and speed up operations with voice-activated ordering.

“While there have been successes to date, we feel there is an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions more broadly,” said the franchisee memo from Mason Smoot, senior vice president and chief restaurant officer for McDonald’s U.S. “After thoughtful review, McDonald’s has decided to end our current partnership with IBM on AOT. … IBM remains a trusted partner and we will continue to utilize many of their other products across our system.”

Two sources familiar with the technology told CNBC that among its challenges, it had issues interpreting different accents and dialects, which affected order accuracy. McDonald’s declined to comment on accuracy or technology challenges, while IBM did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the tool’s accuracy.


McDonald’s and IBM partnered in 2021 create the drive-thru AI tech in drive thru ordering. It was initially hailed as a success by the company with 85 percent order accuracy. That other 15 percent though, oh boy. There are tons of videos online showing the AI bots struggling with simple requests on orders or getting things wrong. Like mixing up “no caramel” on a sundae by thinking the person is saying they want a cream packet.

Or this video of Wendy’s AI bot not understanding this person wanted extra cheese and pickles on their burger.

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