Since 2021, McDonald’s has been experimenting with artificial intelligence-powered ordering systems in their drive-thrus.
It’s intended to work as follows: a customer approaches, places their order, and then the AI-powered machine confirms it before telling them to go to the next window, making alterations as needed.
How it has actually worked in practice is a bit different. Numerous users on TikTok have gone viral after showing their AI drive-thru fails. For example, in one case, the “intelligence” tried to add bacon to a customer’s ice cream.
Now, another user on TikTok has sparked discussion after claiming that a simple case of crosstalk from the neighboring drive-thru station caused the AI to add 9 sweet teas to her order.
The video, posted by user Ren (@resinsbiren), currently has over 93,000 views.
@resinsbiren #greenscreen @mcdonalds #nine #sweettea #mcdonalds #robots #friday #caffeine ♬ original sound – Ren Adams
According to Ren, she had originally tried to order a hash brown, a sweet tea, and a Coke. However, as the robot was confirming her total, someone pulled up to the adjacent drive-thru line and placed their order, causing her machine to incorrectly add a Diet Coke.
Upon trying to remedy this mistake, the machine decided to add 8 additional sweet teas to Ren’s order. In response, Ren says she simply drove away.
McDonald’s itself has admitted that its AI system isn’t up to its own standards.
“McDonald’s drive-thru voice ordering accuracy rate at 24 Illinois restaurants was in the low 80% range, which is below the 95%-plus order accuracy rate the company wants before broader adoption, per a BTIG report,” writes author Alicia Kelso for Restaurant Dive.
That said, the company is not alone in shifting to AI to power its drive-thrus. Checkers, White Castle, Panera Bread, and other chains have also begun using computers to process customer orders automatically.
Back on TikTok, some commenters under Ren’s video claimed they’ve had similar experiences.
“This happened to me at Rally’s,” wrote a user. “I said mozzarella sticks and for some reason the robot also added fries and it wasn’t even shown on the screen.”
“My mom ordered 2 happy meals for my siblings,” recalled another. “It decided to try and give her 30, and she had to sit there and fight it.”
“…My total went from 3 something to 10 something be as I was driving to the window,” alleged a third. “It was adding the other person’s to mine.”
While some users recommended switching to the app, others yearned for the days when real people were on the other side of the microphone.
“And this is exactly why a person should take your order,” summarized a user.
The Daily Dot reached out to McDonald’s via email and Ren via TikTok comment.