A team of Volvo safety engineers arrived in the ACT last week to film and study the roadside behaviour of kangaroos in their natural habitat.
They will take their data and findings back to Sweden to develop a unique system using radar and camera technology to detect kangaroos and, if required, automatically apply the brakes to avoid an impact.
According to the National Roads and Members Association (NRMA), there are more than 20,000 kangaroo strikes on Australian roads each year leading to human injuries and fatalities, and costing more than $75 million in claims.
Volvo senior safety engineer Martin Magnusson said kangaroos posed a unique challenge compared with current animal avoidance technology developed in Sweden using larger, slower-moving animals such as elk, reindeer and cows.
“Kangaroos are smaller than these animals and their behaviour is more erratic,” Magnusson said.
“This is why it’s important that we test and calibrate our technology on real kangaroos in their natural environment.
Where Volvo’s pedestrian detection technology is geared towards city driving, animal detection is designed to function at highway speeds.
“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.”
Volvo Australia managing director Kevin McCann says the kangaroo research is the latest step towards realising the brand’s dream than no one is killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020, but insisted the onus remained on drivers to be attentive and in control behind the wheel.
“This type of technology is not designed to take responsibility away from drivers,” McCann said.
“If the driver is inattentive the car will warn them and eventually make a hard braking to avoid a collision.”
Volvo is completing its kangaroo detection research at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve near Canberra, with the nation’s capital being a hot spot for kangaroo collisions.