The alcohol industry could end making some serious profits thanks to autonomous vehicles and related technologies that are bound to change the way we traverse the roads. According to the research recently conducted by a financial firm Morgan Stanley, alcohol sales will increase by no less than $100 billion annually by 2025 in the U.S. alone. That's almost a 50% increase in comparison to the current numbers as the American alcohol industry recorded just over $211 billion in sales last year.
Not surprisingly, the expected drop in the number of designated drivers that autonomous cars are likely to cause is one of the main factors affecting Morgan Stanley's forecast but is far from the only one. Namely, it's widely believed that people will be less worried about the legal driving limit once they get their hands on self-driving vehicles. Analysts expect that in ten years' time, an average consumer will be having one more standard drink per week due to the fact that he or she won't be driving but will instead be driven home.
Speaking of being driven, the alcohol industry is also quite happy with the increasing popularity of ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. Morgan Stanley's paper states that just like autonomous vehicle technology, ride-sharing solutions "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." While the same can almost certainly be said of traditional taxi services which have modernized their businesses with apps, the firm's research paper doesn't touch upon them. Still, it's not hard to see how the ability to order a taxi ride with a few taps on one's smartphone would indirectly increase the amount of alcohol consumption due to sheer convenience. Regardless of that, it's quite possible legislators won't be too keen to allow drunk people behind the wheels of self-driving cars. Looking at this issue from a global perspective, certain European countries have laws prohibiting drunk car passengers to ride in the front of the vehicle. It's not ludicrous to see how some lawmakers may try to apply the same logic on drunk "drivers" of autonomous cars, even if they're technically passengers.
Naturally, all of this is purely hypothetical and it's still hard to predict how certain states and countries will handle the issue given how fully autonomous vehicles are still years away from actually being available to an average consumer. Most industry experts expect self-driving vehicles will hit the market by 2020 but likely won't be immediately allowed on public roads in most parts of the world. Some analysts fear that driverless vehicles won't be allowed on public roads for decades despite the fact that the tech industry expects they'll surpass the capabilities of human drivers in the next few years if they haven't already. Luckily, that prediction probably won't turn out to be correct as the public opinion on self-driving cars is already improving at this very moment and is bound to reflect on lawmakers' decisions on this emerging technology in the future. The tech industry is still wary of regulators and their fears were best articulated by the business magnate Elon Musk, who recently predicted that autonomous vehicles won't be allowed to launch commercially until they're at least ten times safer than human drivers. So, even though it's extremely optimistic about the idea of people being driven from bars and restaurants, the alcohol industry will have to remain patient until that time actually comes and not count its chickens before they've hatched.