McDonald’s trials AI drive-through system to cut down waiting times

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McDonald's customers could soon be speaking to a computer when using its drive-through service.

The fast-food giant is trialling voice recognition software to help speed up ordering and cut customer waiting times.

Using artificial intelligence (AI), computers take orders before relaying them to staff to prepare the food.

The technology is being tested at 10 branches in Chicago in the US. If successful, it could be rolled out to locations across the world, including the UK.

However, the service has proven to be only 85% accurate, with the remaining 15% of orders requiring employees to rectify, according to US news outlet CNBC.

Announcing the move yesterday, Wednesday, McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski said no decision had yet been made on whether the tech would be installed at its other US sites.

"Now there's a big leap from going to 10 restaurants in Chicago to 14,000 restaurants across the US, with an infinite number of promo permutations, menu permutations, dialect permutations, weather – and on and on and on," he said.

McDonald's is also looking to add machines to its kitchen by installing robotic fryers and grills in the future, Kempczinski told CNBC.

It began considering introducing more automation about five years ago after US employees started demanding better pay.

After a national protest calling for the minimum hourly wage to be increased to $15 (£10.63), then-US CEO Ed Rensi said it would be cheaper to use robots than people.

"It's cheaper to buy a $35,000 (£25,000) robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who's inefficient making $15 an hour bagging French fries," he told Fox Business in 2016.

"If you can't get people for a reasonable minimum wage, you're going to get machines to do the work," he added.

  • Mcdonalds
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Technology

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