AI-Powered Drive-Thru Errors Force Workers To Intervene 70% Of The Time

As skyrocketing inflation and increased minimum wage have prompted businesses to turn to artificial intelligence (AI), one AI company serving fast food brands has now admitted that their product is so faulty that workers are forced to intervene roughly 70% of the time.

A conversational chatbot — which is used by fast-food companies like Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Del Taco and Checkers — was made by Presto Automation to take drive-thru orders and upsell products to customers. The company advertises the chatbot as a way to address the fast-food industry’s labor shortage and turn-around rate.

However, Presto Automation has since acknowledged that most of the orders require human participation — noting in business filings that “off-site agents” assist with over 70% of purchases to ensure that the AI chatbot system does not malfunction or input incorrect items into the order.

It appears that the company’s employees, many of whom are overseas in nations like the Philippines, are often required to step in to fix the AI chatbot’s consistent mistakes — such as when the AI misunderstands the customer and inputs a beef quesadilla into a vegetarian’s order instead of a meatless quesadilla.

In a statement to Bloomberg News, a Presto Automation representative reported that the employees would be assisting in training the AI system so that it would eventually require less human intervention.

The company initially claimed on its website that the AI system was successfully taking 95% of orders “without human intervention.”

“Thanks to our superior AI engine, Presto Voice consistently takes over 95 percent of the orders without any human intervention,” the website claimed in August.

Presto Automation has since updated this statement in response to a notification earlier this year that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was looking into disclosures it had made “regarding certain aspects of its AI technology.”

However, the updated language appeared intentionally misleading, as it stated that the AI “consistently” takes 95% of orders “without any restaurant staff intervention.” While it does include a vague statement that the AI is “augmented by advanced human supervision,” it still appears to suggest that the chatbot is much more independent than it actually is.

“Thanks to our superior AI engine augmented by advanced human supervision, Presto Voice consistently takes up to 95 percent of drive-thru orders without any restaurant staff intervention,” the website’s updated statement read.

Meanwhile, the developers of ChatGPT, OpenAI and Presto Automation announced a partnership in March that is focused on enhancing the functionality of Presto Voice. The company reportedly intends to grow from 400 sites to 1,200 sites by 2024, according to its website.

Stock Analysis shows that Presto Automation’s shares dropped by a staggering 60% this year, causing the company’s market worth to sink to roughly $59 million.

The drive-thru AI chatbot is just one of many examples of automation being introduced into the fast-food industry in recent years amid skyrocketing inflation, increasing minimum wage, labor shortages and high turnover rate. Some fast-food chains have started using robots to welcome customers, prepare coffee, deliver food to tables and even flip hamburgers. Many chains, especially McDonald’s, have introduced kiosks for customers to order their food, rather than hiring cashiers. While the initial expense for these machines is high, the long-term cost is a fraction of the expense of hiring human labor.

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