Why McDonald's AI Drive-Thru Is Coming To A Screeching Halt

cars at McDonald's drive-thru
cars at McDonald's drive-thru - Aaron of L.A. Photography/Shutterstock

One of the things causing angst in the first quarter of the 21st century is a "Rise of the Robots" scenario straight out of "The Terminator." Okay, at this point it's not so much about mecha-monsters determined to wipe out the human race (although maybe that's more of a "Battlestar Galactica" thing), but more the very real possibility that significant numbers of us will lose our jobs to AI sooner or later. Make no mistake, that day is coming (the McKinsey Global Institute has estimated that nearly 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide by 2030), but for certain McDonald's employees, today is not that day. The restaurant chain's drive-thrus, it seems, will soon be 100% staffed by humans.

McDonald's started test-driving AI drive-thrus in 2021 in partnership with IBM and by now over 100 restaurants have this system in place. It's not without its glitches, which have no doubt provided headaches for customers and fodder for social media hilarity. Numerous viral videos have shown AI misunderstanding what customers ask for, adding unwanted items to their orders, and generally messing up. Perhaps because these unpaid employees aren't quite up to snuff, McDonald's announced to its franchisees in an email viewed by Restaurant Business that as of July 26, its drive-thrus will once again be AI-free. While it didn't cite any particular reason, CEO Chris Kempczinski admitted back in 2021 that AI ordering was only accurate about 85% of the time. The email notes that Mickey D's sees "an opportunity to explore voice ordering solutions more broadly."

Read more: McDonald's Menu Items That Even The Staff Won't Eat

Like The Terminator, AI Drive-Thrus, Too, Will Be Back

robot hand holding hamburger
robot hand holding hamburger - Rawpixel/Getty Images

In 1984's "The Terminator," the eponymous cyborg declines to sit in a waiting room, but instead delivers the laconic line, "I'll be back," and returns within seconds to crash his car through the door. While we don't anticipate McDonald's AI to make its resurgence known in such a dramatic fashion, nor with a Schwarzeneggerian accent, its return seems equally inevitable. McDonald's admitted as much to Restaurant Business, stating that it was not only planning to continue the IBM partnership in other ways but was confident that AI ordering would be the wave of the future even if the future would be a bit later than originally anticipated. In fact, the chain says it plans to decide on how to proceed with its AI roll-out by the end of 2024.

McDonald's is hardly the only fast food provider jumping on the AI bandwagon. Panera was an early adopter, as well, picking it up by 2022, while other chains trying it out have included Checkers-Rally's, Del Taco, Jersey Mike's, and White Castle. Last year Wendy's got together with Google Cloud to institute its own AI ordering, although this, too, was not without its share of snafus duly reported by social media. Still, whether you love it, loathe it, or laugh at it, it seems we have no choice but to accept AI drive-thrus. They may be temporarily on hiatus at McDonald's but are most likely here to stay until the robots crush us all.

Read the original article on Mashed.