News McDonald’s to end AI drive-through test with IBM

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McDonald’s is changing course on its artificial intelligence plans.

The fast-food giant will end a test run of its AI drive-through technology partnership with IBM
in more than 100 restaurants. The so-called Automated Order Taker will be shut off no later than July 26, according to a memo sent to franchisees late last week, 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.”

McDonald's is removing artificial intelligence (AI) powered ordering technology from its drive-through restaurants in the US, after customers shared its comical mishaps online.

A trial of the system, which was developed by IBM and uses voice recognition software to process orders, was announced in 2019.

It has not proved entirely reliable, however, resulting in viral videos of bizarre misinterpreted orders ranging from bacon-topped ice cream to hundreds of dollars' worth of chicken nuggets.

McDonald's told franchisees it would remove the tech from the more than 100 restaurants it has been testing it in by the end of July, as first reported by trade publication Restaurant Business.

"After thoughtful review, McDonald's has decided to end our current global partnership with IBM on AOT [Automated Order Taking] beyond this year," the restaurant chain said in a statement.

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