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Will Self-Driving Cars Make Us All into a Bunch of Drunks?

There was a time before automobiles ruled the road when you could only rely on your own two feet or your trusty steed to get you home after a night of boozing at the ol’ gin mill. (Some people still rely on equine “designated drivers” in this day and age, like the daiquiri-loving cowboy in Louisiana who rode his horse Sugar home from the bar a couples years back—though he did get a ticket for public intoxication.)

But in the 21st century, most of us rely on cars to get around—driven by ourselves or others—and the massive amounts of DUIs incurred every year are a testament to the bad decisions we face as a result of our dependence on that method of transportation.

Looking forward, self-driving car technology could change all that, and mean big bucks for the food service, bar, and auto industries. Where there’s money to be made, there are big banks crunching numbers in hopes of one day capitalizing on these technological paradigm shifts.

In a report entitled “Shared Autonomous Mobility: The Solution to Drinking and Driving?,” Morgan Stanley equity analyst Adam Jonas concludes, rather unsurprisingly but with interesting social implications, that driverless cars could significantly impact the alcohol market while simultaneously reducing accidents and fatalities caused by alcohol. The report was a collaboration between Morgan Stanley’s Autos & Shared Mobility Team and Global Beverages teams and designed to “explore the investment significance” of a future where our cars can drive us home—especially after a few drinks.

From an investor perspective, this makes certain companies particularly attractive since, as the report points out, “drinking alcohol and driving cars represent hundreds of billions of consumer hours and trillions of dollars of economic activity.”

Jonas goes on to isolated three industries ripe for transformation in a post-steering wheel world. First and foremost, alcohol-serving establishments such as bars are obvious beneficiaries of their customers not having to cap their intake for fear of getting behind the wheel. As a result, the report cites premium product producers like ABInBev, Diageo, and Constellation Brands as some of the “best positioned beverage names” for investors when self-driving cars hit the open market.

With an estimated 10 to 20 percent of revenues coming from booze, restaurants also stand to gain, with brew-pubs and sports bars also in a great position, according to Morgan Stanley, as is Chili’s, who they say is “famous for margaritas.” (Sure?)

Because of their expertise in “sensors and software/hardware integration for autonomous and semiautonomous technology,” car companies like Tesla and Autoliv are also cited as possible investment opportunities.

Obviously, this report also has pretty major implications beyond just equity. For those of us who aren’t looking to throw big bucks around but love to get our drink on, we can still expect to see lifestyle changes that come along with having what amounts to a robo-chauffeur. We will have fewer roadblocks (no pun intended) to drinking more, and more often, for better or for worse.

“We think it is part of the solution to eliminating the cause of one third of traffic fatalities in the United States and other countries,” Jonas told MUNCHIES. “Shared and autonomous mobility dramatically expands the availability of affordable designated drivers to our communities, at the margin eliminating the excuse of getting behind the wheel while under the influence.” In other words, drinking and driving is fundamentally a choice—and not a good one. In the meantime, while we wait for a new technological age to dawn, you’re probably still better off on a horse or in a cab.

 

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