McDonald's Kills Off AI Drive-Thru After Infuriating Customers with Massive Bills - 'McDonald's Robot Is Wild'


Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re reposting it here in case you missed it.

McDonald’s is ending its drive-thru artificial intelligence experiment after the endeavor proved to be anything but smart.

The company confirmed on June 17 that the once-promising “automated order taking” system that was announced in 2021 as a collaboration with IBM was being slashed after it wasn’t cutting the mustard.

The announcement came amid criticism of the AOT system as it got orders horribly wrong.

“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,” the fast-food giant said in a statement to Axios.

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“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,” McDonald’s concluded.

The system was brought to 100 McDonald’s locations nationwide.

AOT went viral online numerous times after it failed to handle basic drive-thru orders.

One video posted on TikTok last year saw a customer complaining that the system messed up her daily order.

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The woman said in the clip that she went through the drive-thru to order her usual hash brown, Coca-Cola and sweet tea.

AOT instead teed up an order of nine large sweet teas, a Coke and a hash brown for $13.83.

Another TikTok user showed herself laughing as the AI system ran wild with her order of McNuggets.

The computer tried to serve her two 10-piece orders plus an additional 2,610 pieces of chicken with a medium order of fries for $325.21.

“The McDonald’s robot is wild,” the woman commented.

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IBM declined to comment on its failed experiment in streamlining fast-food ordering.

Both the tech company and McDonald’s shared their excitement about their joint artificial intelligence venture when it was announced in October 2021.

“McDonald’s development and testing of AOT technology in restaurants has shown substantial benefits to customers and the restaurant crew experience,” the companies said in a joint statement.

“Moving forward, IBM’s expertise in building customer care solutions with AI and natural language processing will help scale the AOT technology across markets and tackle integrations including additional languages, dialects and menu variations,” they said.

Less than three years later, McDonald’s has pulled the plug on AOT — at least for now.

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.