On average, Australian motorists hit 20,000 kangaroos each year. That, in turn, results in about 75 million Australian dollars (about $53.7M at today's rates) in insurance claims, not to mention the potential for injury in a roo strike. With that in mind, Volvo is preparing a kangaroo avoidance system.
The company reports that it shipped some experts down to the Land of Oz to "film and study the roadside behavior of kangaroos in their natural habitat." Analyzing this behavior is the first step in creating a system that can prevent, or at the very least mitigate, kangaroo-on-car incidents. In the attached release, Volvo explains that any system would rely on both cameras and radar to pick up kangaroos on the side of the road and automatically apply the brakes. As absurd as it sounds, Volvo, which comes from a country with far bigger animals to worry about, has some experience in this sort of tech.
"Kangaroos are very unpredictable animals and difficult to avoid, but we are confident we can refine our technology to detect them and avoid collisions on the highway," Senior Safety Engineer Martin Magnusson said in the attached release. "In Sweden we have done research involving larger, slower moving animals like moose, reindeer and cows which are a serious threat on our roads. Kangaroos are smaller than these animals and their behavior is more erratic. This is why it's important that we test and calibrate our technology on real kangaroos in their natural environment."
There's no timeline for the rollout of the technology, aside from Volvo saying it's just one more part of its commitment to prevent any deaths or serious injuries in the company's products by 2020.
Read on for the official press release.
Volvo Cars is developing kangaroo detection technology to solve one of the most costly causes of traffic collisions in Australia.
A team of Volvo Cars safety experts travelled to the Australian Capital Territory this week to film and study the roadside behaviour of kangaroos in their natural habitat. The data Volvo Cars collects will be used to develop the first ever kangaroo detection and collision avoidance system.
According to the National Roads & Motorists' Association (NRMA) there are over 20,000 kangaroo strikes on Australian roads each year costing over AU $75 million in insurance claims. The human cost of serious injuries and fatalities from animal collisions is incalculable.
To help address this Volvo Cars is developing a unique system that uses radar and camera technology to detect kangaroos and automatically apply the brakes if an accident is imminent.
"Whereas Volvo Cars' Pedestrian Detection technology is geared towards city driving, our kangaroo detection research is focusing on highway speed situations," said Martin Magnusson, Senior Safety Engineer at Volvo Cars. "Kangaroos are very unpredictable animals and difficult to avoid, but we are confident we can refine our technology to detect them and avoid collisions on the highway.
"In Sweden we have done research involving larger, slower moving animals like moose, reindeer and cows which are a serious threat on our roads. Kangaroos are smaller than these animals and their behaviour is more erratic. This is why it's important that we test and calibrate our technology on real kangaroos in their natural environment."
"The Volvo Cars City Safety technology is a true state-of-the-art technology, because the brakes can be primed in milliseconds - much faster than a human reacts," Martin Magnusson said. "We are only at the beginning of what is possible."
Volvo Car Australia Managing Director Kevin McCann said that research into kangaroo detection technology is one of the latest focus areas aimed at realising Volvo Cars' vision that no one is killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by 2020.
"This type of technology is not designed to take responsibility away from drivers. If the driver is inattentive the car will warn him or her and eventually intervene with hard braking to avoid a potential collision," added Martin Magnusson.
Volvo Cars is conducting its kangaroo detection research this week at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve near Canberra. Canberra is one of the nation's hotspots for kangaroo collisions.