AI not yet ready to take over McDonald’s jobs

While many people fear that artificial intelligence (AI) will replace humans in various jobs, there is one seemingly elementary role where the technology still comes short — taking McDonald’s drive-thru orders.

ZDNet reports that several people on TikTok have posted how the AI-powered robot at McDonald’s outlets in Chicago got their orders completely wrong.

Among them was Ren Adams, who had tried to order hash browns, sweet tea, and a Coke for breakfast.

However, the robot overheard another customer’s order in the second drive-thru lane and added some of their requested items to her order.

When Adams tried to correct the order, the robot replaced the other customer’s Diet Coke with nine sweet teas instead of one.

While it’s possible that the AI could have been confused by Adams’ pronunciation, several other customers had similar experiences.

Caitlyn Sykora had McNuggets meals worth over $300 (R5,446) mistakenly added to her order. Trying to tell the robot to stop adding more meals to the order did not work.

A third user of the system — Madilynn Cameron — tried to order a water and vanilla ice cream.

The system recognised the ice cream as a caramel sundae despite Cameron’s repeated attempts to correct this and randomly kept adding ketchup and butter.

In response to a question about bringing down labour costs by using more robots, McDonald’s itself submitted that a robots-only restaurant was only a CFO’s dream last year.

“The idea of robots and all those things, while it maybe is great for garnering headlines, it’s not practical in the vast majority of restaurants,” said McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski during an earnings call.

The highest level of automation offered by McDonald’s in South Africa is its self-service kiosks, where customers can place orders and pay without speaking to a waitron or cashier.

However, instead of replacing its till workers, the system enables more staff to help with packing and handing over meals, streamlining the overall ordering process.

This is one real-life illustration of what many automation advocates argue — that technologies like AI and machine learning will augment and not replace human jobs — by eliminating the more mundane and repetitive tasks of a role.

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AI not yet ready to take over McDonald’s jobs