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Yeah, we get that all of the safety and driver-assist technology is great. But what about the waste of time you spend in a long line at McDonald’s for a crummy Happy Meal and Diet Coke? It’s supposed to be “fast food,” after all, yet it never will be. So Ford is doing something about it by developing a system where the time in line isn’t a waste. 

Is the Ford drive-thru technology in cars now?

Fast food
Fast food drive-thru lines | Colorado4 via YouTube

It’s even got a name, Driver Assistance Systems and Methods for Deployments in a Drive-Through Lane.” Catchy, don’t you think? Maybe “Read a Book in the Drive-Thru,” or “Fast Food Fun in the Drive-Thru” would be better. Or not. 

Anyway, we know this because Ford just applied for a patent for the system. And it incorporates close-to-existing autonomous technology. The patent says the system accelerates, brakes, and otherwise moves your minivan of screaming messy kiddies autonomously. 

What happens when you pull into a drive-thru?

Drive-thru line KFC | Getty

With the phalanx of cameras and sensors cars already available today, this doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. So this isn’t pie-in-the-sky technology so much as it’s a Jumbo Jack way of balancing your checkbook (does anyone do this anymore?), finishing listening to that podcast, or texting your favorite foodie. You could also order online while in line and bypass the order box, simplifying the process even more. 

Here’s how Ford sees it; when your SUV hits the Psycho Taco drive-thru, a notification on the screen advises not to touch the steering wheel, throttle, or brakes. From there, your car crawls in the line, stopping when necessary. This is aided by collision avoidance, object detection, and lane-centering already in most cars. 

How would the Ford drive-thru system work?

Early McDonald’s restaurant – McDonald’s

The car senses then stops where you order, and again when it’s time to pay. Or, according to Ford Authority, the patent also can also use voice commands if the onboard recognition isn’t to your liking. Once your infused nachos and change are in your hands, you take over the control much like adaptive cruise control. Tapping the break or twitching the wheel puts control back to you. 

long lines
In ‘n Out long lines – Getty

We’ve emphasized the current technology aspect because we think you will see this sooner rather than later. And it is enough of a novelty that its got built-in marketing advantages. Plus, tying it in with a fast food company gives cross-promotion possibilities. We can also see a lot of possibilities for some interesting advertising to launch it.

Original Jack in the Box order menu- JB

So Ford, what are you waiting for? The fast food fanatics see a great way to catch up with friends and family. Or facetime with your lawyer about that thing that happened last week. Time is money, and the one commodity we can’t buy or get back, except in this case. 


Wacky and Strange Drive-Thru Car Culture