Sweden car maker Volvo’s plan to develop technology that can detect kangaroos to avoid collisions moves closer this week with tests at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve west of Canberra.During the tests, Volvo Cars safety engineers are filming kangaroos’ roadside behaviour in their natural setting, in a nationally recognised hot spot for kangaroo collisions. The data will be used to develop Australia’s first kangaroo detection and collision avoidance software. According to Engineers for Volvo, they are working on an innovative new system using cameras and radar that will help drivers detect kangaroos and warn them if they risk a collision.The work is underway and is based on a previous design used to detect animals such as moose and deer in Europe.The engineers are looking to adapt the technology for kangaroos by researching their movement, shape and behaviour.Kangaroo research stems from Volvo earlier work to detect, cars, cyclists and pedestrians at day or night. The technology uses an advanced light sensitive, high-resolution camera to detect animals. A radar sensor in the grille scans the road ahead to detect moving objects like animals, cars, cyclists and pedestrians. A camera in the windscreen works in parallel with the radar to detect which way the object is moving and help the computer decide what action to take, if any.The system processes 15 images every second and can react to an emergency in half the time of a human. Volvo says it takes 1.2 seconds for an attentive driver to detect danger and then apply the brakes, compared to about 0.0.5 seconds for the computer system
“It’s a challenge because, the European creatures, are four-legged animals,” Volvo Cars engineer Martin Magnusson is quoted as saying.”The kangaroo has four legs but it’s actually jumping and what we have seen so far in the park is its behaviour seems a little bit unpredictable.”So it’s a challenge to be able to detect it, to track it and to get the accurate position and movement of the animal.”Mr Magnusson said the system would warn drivers if there was a risk of a crash and if the driver failed to brake in time the car would make up the extra braking power required.”Whereas Volvo’s Pedestrian Detection technology is geared towards city driving, animal detection is designed to work at highway speeds.” Volvo’s senior safety engineer, Martin Magnusson said.”Kangaroos are very unpredictable animals and difficult to avoid, but we are confident we can refine our animal detection technology to detect them and avoid collisions on the highway.”In Sweden we have done research involving larger, slower moving animals like elk, 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.””Volvo’s City Safety truly is state-of-the-art technology, because the brakes can be primed in milliseconds, much faster than a human,” Magnusson said. “We are only at the beginning of what is possible.”Volvo Car Australia managing director Kevin McCann said kangaroo detection was part of Volvo’s 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 her and eventually make a hard braking to avoid a collision.” he said.According to the National Roads and Members Association more than 20,000 kangaroo strikes on Australian roads each year cost over $70 million in claims. The human cost of serious injuries and fatalities from animal collisions is incalculable.