The Secret Behind AI Drive-Thrus? It’s Humans Doing the Work.

The Secret Behind AI Drive-Thrus? It’s Humans Doing the Work.

Presto, the self-acclaimed “leader in drive-thru voice automation” wants artificial intelligence to take your order. The drive-thru AI company works with Carls Jr, Chili’s, and Del Taco, and it partially runs on ChatGPT. However, SEC filings from November reveal that Presto’s AI may not be capable of taking your burger order and requires a human to help out with 70% of its orders.

Presto said its drive-thru technology, Presto Voice, “consistently takes over 95% of the orders without any human intervention” back in August. Four months later, the company says its drive-thru tech “takes up to 95% of drive-thru orders without any restaurant staff intervention.”

That language changed because Presto uses off-site workers in the Philippines to take your order, according to Bloomberg Thursday. There’s a lot of talk these days about how smart generative AI is, but Presto is an example that AI is not ready to take over a particular human job: a fast food worker. The SEC is investigating Presto over disclosures it made “regarding certain aspects of its AI technology.”

Presto did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

Presto announced a collaboration with OpenAI in March and received an early investment from CEO Sam Altman. The company’s questionable drive-thru technology uses ChatGPT to create menu knowledge bases, train Presto Voice on guest orders, and create more natural responses for the AI. The founder and former CEO of Presto, Rajat Suri, said “ChatGPT and Presto Voice represent cutting-edge AI applications,” but it seems the technology can’t independently order off the dollar menu.

Rajat Suri stepped down as CEO just weeks after announcing the collaboration with OpenAI. This may have been a sign of looming trouble in itself. On a recent earnings call, Presto’s new CEO said “human agents will always play a role in ensuring order accuracy,” which calls into question Presto Voice altogether.

Presto seems to have overpromised on what it can deliver with AI, and it’s a warning to other AI companies out there making bold forecasts on artificial intelligence. There’s more pressure than ever for tech companies to be on the cutting edge, which may have caused Google to exaggerate the capabilities of Gemini. Presto’s case is an important reminder that AI is a young technology, and though it has great potential, we’re a long way away from artificial intelligence taking someone’s job.

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