One of the appeals of driving a sport utility vehicle (SUV) is the relative safety that comes with driving a larger vehicle. Essentially, if an SUV and a compact car are in an accident, chances are that the occupants in the SUV will not be harmed as badly compared to the passengers in the compact car. Since the SUV is larger, it is more likely that it will better equipped to absorb the impact of a crash.
As safety features are being developed in self-driving cars, crash optimization is becoming an important consideration. Essentially, cars are being programmed to minimize the risk of harm to occupants of a car, as well as people surrounding it. So as a car uses radar and other sensors to constantly scan its surroundings and talk to other vehicles, it may have the capability to make split second decisions to protect against catastrophic accidents. This may mean that a car could be programmed to crash into an SUV as opposed to a subcompact car in order optimize a crash.
At this point in time, this notion may seem far-fetched, but the ethics behind such programming may be an issue in the near feature. It may beg the question of who can actually be held liable in future crashes if they are caused by crash optimization programming. Could an SUV owner blame the manufacturer of the vehicle that crashes into it in order to avoid a severe crash?
Further, it will be interesting to see how insurance costs change for SUV owners, as well as owners of vehicles with self-driving capabilities.