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McDonalds drops AI technology from drive-through restaurants 

McDonald’s is discontinuing its use of the controversial AI-powered ordering technology in US drive-throughs after customers highlighted its humorous failures online. 

This system, developed by IBM and featuring voice recognition software, was introduced in 2019. However, it has shown significant unreliability, leading to viral videos of wildly inaccurate orders, such as bacon-topped ice cream and exorbitant quantities of chicken nuggets.

The AI’s blunders have been widely shared on social media. One TikTok video with 30,000 views shows a frustrated young woman repeatedly trying to order caramel ice cream, only for the AI to keep adding multiple stacks of butter. 

Another clip, with 360,000 views, features a customer whose order was mixed up with another, resulting in nine teas on her bill. A particularly popular video depicts two friends laughing as the AI adds hundreds of dollars worth of chicken nuggets to their order, while the New York Post reported an instance where bacon was mistakenly added to someone’s ice cream.

McDonald’s informed franchisees that the AI technology would be removed from the over 100 restaurants where it was being tested by the end of July, as first reported by the trade publication Restaurant Business.

The company said in a statement: “After careful consideration, McDonald’s has decided to end our current global partnership with IBM on Automated Order Taking (AOT) beyond this year.” 

Despite this, McDonald’s expressed confidence that such technology would eventually play a role in its restaurants’ future. The statement went on to say: “We will continue to explore long-term, scalable solutions and aim to make an informed decision on a future voice ordering system by year-end.”

The AI system had been controversial from the start, initially sparking fears about job losses. However, it has become evident that replacing human workers with AI is actually much more complex than predicted. 

IBM responded by pointing out the technology’s capabilities, noting its speed and accuracy in demanding conditions. “While McDonald’s is re-evaluating and refining its AOT plans, we look forward to continuing our collaboration on various other projects,” IBM said in a statement.

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