10 February 2024

Makes You Wonder about AI and Self Driving Cars

When one looks at the applications of autonomous technology to the real world, one of the most visible is self-checkout at the grocery store. 

It turns out that despite the fact that the application is very limited in scope, and has been in service for over 2 decades, it still does not work:

It's a common sight at many retail stores: a queue of people, waiting to use a self-checkout kiosk, doing their best to remain patient as a lone store worker attends to multiple malfunctioning machines. The frustration mounts while a dozen darkened, roped-off and cashier-less tills sit in the background.

For shoppers, self-checkout was supposed to provide convenience and speed. Retailers hoped it would usher in a new age of cost savings. Their thinking: why pay six employees when you could pay one to oversee customers at self-service registers, as they do their own labour of scanning and bagging for free?

While self-checkout technology has its theoretical selling points for both consumers and businesses, it mostly isn't living up to expectations. Customers are still queueing. They need store employees to help clear kiosk errors or check their identifications for age-restricted items. Stores still need to have workers on-hand to help them, and to service the machines.

The technology is, in some cases, more trouble than it's worth.

"It hasn't delivered anything that it promises," says Christopher Andrews, associate professor and chair of sociology at Drew University, US, and author of The Overworked Consumer: Self-Checkouts, Supermarkets, and the Do-It-Yourself Economy. "Stores saw this as the next frontier… If they could get the consumer to think that [self-checkout] was a preferable way to shop, then they could cut labour costs. But they're finding that people need help doing it, or that they'll steal stuff. They ended up realising that they're not saving money, they're losing money."

Remember this when some silicon snake oil salesman comes to your door and promises to change your life.


Post a Comment