To me, kangaroos are one of those goofy-looking animals that manage to put a smile on your face. But if you live – and drive – in Australia, they’re not a laughing matter. In fact, it’s reported that there are 20,000 vehicle accidents involving kangaroos. Based on the differences between Australia’s population and the US population, that would translate into 275,000 kangaroo-vehicle collisions.
Kangaroos on the road are not as dangerous as deer are in the US. Here, there are roughly 200 human fatalities each year in accidents involving deer; there’s rarely a kangaroo-related human death Down Under.
Nonetheless, it’s considered a major problem for drivers in kangaroo-heavy areas.
Up until now, Australian drivers could install roo bars – metal grills – on the front of their vehicles. But there’s now a more high-tech solution on the horizon.
Volvo is studying kangaroo behavior so that it can fine tool its sensors to better respond to how kangaroos behave:
“Martin Magnusson, Senior Safety Engineer at Volvo Cars notes, “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.”” (Source: Car and Driver)
Volvo will be adapting their existing object-detecting technology, which combines a radar sensor to detect objects with a camera to identify which way the object is moving. The car then automatically applies the brakes. Even if the object – another car, a human, or a kangaroo – is hit, it’s at a slower rate, so the impact is less.
“”The system processes 15 images every second and can react to an emergency in half the time of a human,” the company said. “It takes 1.2 seconds for an attentive driver to detect danger and then apply the brakes, compared to about 0.05 seconds for the computer system.”” (Source: CNET)
The automotive industry is among the most aggressive in terms of using technology. It’s been making cars easier to drive (hands-off parallel parking) and safer to operate (collision avoidance technology).
Unfortunately, most of the animals killed by cars are dogs and cats. Because hitting such a small animal doesn’t tend to cause a lot of vehicle damage or many fatalities (other than to the pets), there’s little specific focus on technology that will help prevent these types of accidents, which are certainly devastating for pet owners.
In the meantime, maybe Volvo can turn its attention to deer-collision avoidance. Not as big as moose, not as erratic as kangaroos, but pretty dangerous.
As someone who lives in deer country, I know plenty of people who’d welcome it.