Busted! Drive-Thru Run by "AI" Actually Operated by Humans in the Philippines

Mechanical Turk An AI drive-thru system used at the fast-food chains Checkers and Carl’s Jr isn’t the perfectly autonomous tech it’s been made out to be. The reality, Bloomberg reports, is that the AI heavily relies on a backbone of outsourced laborers who regularly have to intervene so that it takes customers’ orders correctly. Presto Automation, the company that provides the drive-thru systems, admitted in recent filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it employs “off-site agents” in countries like the Philippines who help its “Presto Voice” chatbots in over 70 percent of customer interactions. That’s a lot of intervening for something that claims to provide “automation,” and is yet another example of tech companies exaggerating the capabilities of their AI systems to belie the technology’s true human cost. “There’s so much hype around AI that everyone is misunderstanding what this tool is,” Shelly Palmer, who runs a tech consulting firm, told Bloomberg. “Everybody thinks that AI is some kind of magic.” Change of Tune According to Bloomberg, the SEC informed Presto in July that it was being investigated for claims “regarding certain aspects of its AI technology.” Beyond that, no other details have been made public about the investigation. What we do know, though, is that the probe has coincided with some revealing changes in Presto’s marketing. In August, Presto’s website claimed that its AI could take over 95 percent of drive-thru orders “without any human intervention” — clearly not true, given what we know now. In…Busted! Drive-Thru Run by "AI" Actually Operated by Humans in the Philippines

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