A scary new projection says that self-driving technology could spur drivers to drink on the roads
Self-driving cars may rev up alcohol sales — and that could be dangerous.
A new analysis published by Morgan Stanley predicts that alcohol sales in the years ahead will rise as more self-driving cars appear on the roads.
“Technology could help address the mutual exclusivity of drinking and driving in a way that can significantly enhance the growth rate of the alcohol market and on-trade sales at restaurants,” said Adam Jonas, a Morgan Stanley equity director. “[It is a] significant growth opportunity for alcoholic beverage firms, particularly on-trade, premium and beer.”
In a report entitled “Shared Autonomous Mobility: The Solution to Drinking and Driving?” the firm points to two major growth areas for alcohol brands: As the commonality of self-driving cars increases, consumers may come to enjoy “more opportunities to drink before getting in the car,” and “more opportunities to drink while in the car.” That’s because many see self-driving cars as a way to reduce the need for “designated drivers.”
But that’s a dangerous thought, experts say. Previous research conducted at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane warned that drinking in a self-driving automobile might not mitigate the risk of an accident. “Even if it is an autonomous vehicle, the alcohol-impaired person is still the driver,” said researcher Ian Faulks in an interview.
“I think that, when you are behind the wheel of something that is close to a couple of tons … and you are the controlling brain behind that force, you should be paying 100% full attention — eyes on the road hands on the wheel,” added Shelly Palmer, CEO of technology analysis firm The Palmer Group, in an interview with Moneyish.
Palmer cautioned that self-driving vehicles currently don’t have the necessary technology to take the wheel all on their own — so cars still need their drivers to remain alert, and unimpaired by the influence of alcohol.
Around the world, people spend about 600 billion hours per year in cars, and 380 billion hours drinking, per Morgan Stanley’s data. Over the next ten years, Morgan Stanley projects that we can convert some of those driving hours into drinking hours by making them happen contemporaneously — in other words, people drinking while being driven around by self-driving automobile technology — and this, in turn, could increase the market value of the worldwide alcohol sales industry, which the firm currently pegs at $1.5 trillion.
Of the companies that most stand to gain from this possible sales growth, Morgan Stanley names a few: Constellation Brands (owners of Clos du Bois and SVEDKA Vodka), Anheuser-Busch InBev (Budweiser and Michelob), and China’s Yanghe Brewery — a popular Asian brand valued at $18.6 billion — are among them. In the automobile sector, the firm says that Tesla, Continental, Delphi, and Autoliv are most responsible for innovation in the self-driving arena.
In March, Olivier Garrett, a contributor to Forbes, wrote that: “Given the advanced state of driverless technologies and the amount of money being poured into the sector, there is little question—make that, no question at all—that within 10 years, driverless cars will be the norm.”
What’s more, he predicted that up to 10 million self-driving cars could be on the roads by the year 2020 — less than three years away.
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