Just like moose and deer in other parts of the world, strong and agile kangaroos wreak all kinds of havoc when bounding across Australian roads. In an effort to limit the damage, Volvo is working on technology for its vehicles that detects the roos and brings the car to a gentle stop before a collision can occur.
Volvo claims that there are more than 20,000 collisions between kangaroos and cars in Australia each year. This results in serious damage to vehicles, animals and humans involved, so as part of the company's vision to have no one killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by 2020, it is expanding into kangaroo detection.
The system is an adaptation of the company's existing technology known as the City Safety system, which is designed to detect cars, cyclists and pedestrians. But while the City Safety technology is optimized for city driving, the animal detection version is intended to work at highway speeds.
A radar built into the grille constantly scans the road ahead, looking out for moving objects. Meanwhile, a light-sensitive, high-res camera in the windshield works in synch with the radar to determine which way the object is moving and passes the information onto an onboard computer that crunches the numbers. This system churns through 15 images every second and is claimed to respond to an emergency situation in half the time a human does. Volvo says it is able to identify danger and hit the brakes within 0.05 seconds, compared to the 1.2 seconds it takes us mere mortals.
Volvo has been carrying out research in Europe on animal detection for some time, albeit with slower and more cumbersome creatures like cows and moose. Adult kangaroos, which are large and capable of moving very quickly, present another challenge for the team. It is carrying out research this week at a nature reserve outside of Australia's capital Canberra, which involves studying and filming the roadside behavior of kangaroos in the wild.