Swedish car maker Volvo's plan to develop technology that can detect kangaroos to avoid collisions moves a step closer this week with tests at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve west of Canberra.
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 the National Roads and Members Association (NRMA) more than 20,000 kangaroo strikes on Australian roads each year cost over $75 million in claims. The human cost of serious injuries and fatalities from animal collisions is incalculable.
To help address this, Volvo is developing radar and camera technology to detect kangaroos and automatically apply the brakes if an accident is imminent.
"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.
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