McDonald’s is hitting the brakes on artificial intelligence technology incorporated in over 100 drive-thru locations after encountering operational challenges, per Business Insider.

Initially introduced in 2021, the AI-driven ordering system, developed in partnership with IBM, aimed to enhance efficiency and the customer experience. However, McDonald’s has decided to discontinue the technology following widespread reports of AI’s struggles with complex orders.

In a statement to Business Insider, McDonald’s said the technology was meant to “determine if an automated voice ordering solution could simplify operations for crew and create a faster, improved experience for our fans.”

Despite this goal, viral videos depicted AI misinterpreting orders, necessitating human intervention to fix. This has prompted the fast-food giant to reevaluate its strategy when it comes to AI.

In an email correspondence with franchisees, obtained by Restaurant Business magazine, McDonald’s announced plans to deactivate AI technology in all test locations by July 26.

“After a thoughtful review, McDonald’s has decided to end our current partnership with IBM on AOT,” said Mason Smoot, chief restaurant officer for McDonald’s USA.

Why is McDonald’s removing AI drive-thrus?

The decision to remove AI from drive-thrus stems from recurring incidents where AI faltered in understanding customer requests.

One TikTok user shared their experience making a simple request at an AI-operated drive-thru kiosk. The AI system could not understand the order, requiring the user to cancel and restart.

Even after restarting, the AI still couldn’t figure out the order, and an operator eventually took over, quickly resolving the issue.

@that_usa_guy

Trying the McDonald's AI drive thru....Again @McDonald’s Corporate #fail

♬ original sound - Dal JustDal

This trend seems to be common with AI drive-thrus. Many other social media users have taken to their accounts to share their experiences with AI messing up their orders. While AI seems to handle simple, straightforward requests well, it appears to struggle with tasks requiring any complexity.

When AI was first implemented in 2021, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said AI was accurate about 85% of the time, according to CNBC.

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While that number is impressive, the 15% of customers not having an optimal experience appears to have been enough for McDonald’s to shut down the initiative, at least until the technology advances further, which might not be far off given the current trajectory of AI technology.

Will McDonald’s have AI drive-thrus in the future?

Despite discontinuing its current AI drive-thru efforts, McDonald’s remains optimistic about its potential. The company emphasized that AI will play a role in future drive-thru experiences, and may reappear as soon as the end of the year.

“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 in a statement to Restaurant Business.

“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 added.

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