MacDonald’s To Replace Humans With AI Drive-Through Assistants

MacDonald’s has announced that it is to replace human servers with AI-based voice assistants for its drive-through (drive-thru in US speak) restaurants in the United States.

The fast food chain made the announcement as part of an acquisition of Apprente, a Silicon Valley-based start-up.

Apprente was founded in 2017 and is described as is a “leader in the field of conversational voice-based technology.”

AI drive-through

The thinking at MacDonald’s is that “Apprente’s technology will allow for faster, simpler and more accurate ordering at the Drive Thru.”

The acquisition will also bolster the fast food firm’s inhouse tech team, and the Apprente team will form a new, internal, integrated team called McD Tech Labs, focused on meeting the needs of customers in the years ahead.

“Their staff includes employees with PhDs in machine learning and computational linguistics, with a dedicated focus on voice technology,” said MacDonald’s.

And the tech will initially only be used on the drive-thru part of MacDonald’s US operation, the idea is that the tech will be incorporated into other elements.

“The initial focus of the Silicon Valley team will be to enhance technology for use in McDonald’s Drive Thru,” said the firm.

“However, we believe that the broader voice-based technology also has the potential to reach customers when, where and how they want through incorporation into mobile ordering or kiosks,” it added.

Human jobs

It is clear that the use of this AI technology will have an impact on humans, already concerned their jobs will become obsolete as a result of automation and new technologies.

This time last year the Bank of England chief economist warned that the UK will need a skills revolution to avoid “large swathes” of people becoming “technologically unemployed” as artificial intelligence makes many jobs obsolete.

In 2017 Oxford University researchers warned that roughly 80 percent of jobs in transportation, warehousing and logistics, and 63 percent in sales, are likely to disappear due to automation, with retail employment also at high risk.

A report from PwC had previously suggested the arrival of artificial intelligence would be a win for the UK jobs market, as it would create as many jobs as it displaces by boosting economic growth over the next 20 years.

But a number of leading public figures within tech circles including Elon Musk, Bill Gates and the late Professor Stephen Hawking warned that AI poses a real threat to humans if unchecked.”

In late 2014Professor Hawking warned that artificial intelligence could spell the end of life as we know it on Planet Earth, and even suggested that mankind was facing a judgement day scenario.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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