back to article Volvo eyes kangaroo detection tech

Swedish motor manufacturer Volvo is developing "kangaroo detection" tech aimed at reducing the number of collisions between metal and marsupial. The company reckons there are "20,000 kangaroo strikes on Australian roads each year costing over AU $75 million in insurance claims". It already has the "City Safety" system, which …

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  1. Ken 16 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Linked to in-grill machine cannon?

    Now that would liven up a cross country drive in Australia.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Linked to grill machine?

      Sounds much better, contact George Foreman :)

  2. BenBell
    Joke

    This will be useful...

    ...next time I decide to go joyriding through a Zoo.

  3. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Mad max style cars with their front bumpers. That's what's needed.

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      That's official advice. I went to a zoo near Melbourne and the police had a stand doing the safety thing. Including a rather flat estate car that a big red had used as a crash mat. The occupants did not survive and should have fitted roo bars. Then there was some other critter that was like a hell's hedgehog. Big, solid, curled up in the road when it saw headlights and would flip cars if they hit it. And traction control vs a corner covered in cane toads. And I guess hitting a saltie croc at speed would be bad for one's no claims bonus. The land of natural hazards..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I think you'll generally find that the height of the average big red when stationary, let alone moving, will mean that a typical car-based bumper appendage like the one you mention will just tip-tackle the roo straight into your windscreen. The car simply does not have the height required. A similar setup on a 4wd would likely work due to the extra height of the top of the bar.

  4. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Get many kangaroos in Sweden then?

    Learn summat every day.

  5. Christopher Reeve's Horse

    Vision

    If it's Volvo's vision "that no one is killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by 2020", then the driver safety pack (with radar, assisted braking, and hazard warning HUD etc) wouldn't have been a £2K optional extra that I couldn't quite stretch to, it would be standard spec.

    I suppose to be fair, the City Safety thing (and pedestrian airbag) are standard kit, although the City Safety feature only works below 30 mph.

    1. sgp

      Re: Vision

      Why would you want to drive faster than 30 in a city?

      1. adnim Silver badge
        Joke

        @sgp Re: Vision

        It might be hard to hit a kangaroo at less than 30 mph

        1. John Tserkezis

          Re: @sgp Vision

          "It might be hard to hit a kangaroo at less than 30 mph"

          It's pretty easy actually.

          We were 4x4ing on a firetrail (at about running pace) with a cliff on one side, and a mountain on the other.

          A roo comes down the mountain, bumps us, and continues it merry way down what looked like a cliff.

          There was no apparent damage done anywhere, but we were after all in her backyard.

          That was in broad daylight, but the real problems come at night when they get "hypnotised" by the oncoming lights. They wait till last moment, then move in directly in front. When you hit it, you 'aint doin' 30mph at that point... Amazing how much damage even a smaller roo will do.

          1. P. Lee Silver badge

            Re: @sgp Vision

            One hit us on the main freeway from Melbourne to Sydney at night when it was just a shadow which hopped into us on the driver's side (not the front) and still managed to cave in the driver's door so it couldn't be opened. It smeared down the side and bounced off the trailer wheel arch. If it was dazed, it was probably finished off by someone going the other way as we passed a car a few seconds later through the contraflow.

            Apart from high roobars there really isn't anything you can do at speed to avoid these things. Maybe a bond-style screen (the bonnet?) which pops up when there is an impending impact to deflect it?

    2. Blane Bramble

      Re: Vision

      Or they could be trying to bring the price down by 2020 so that it can be standard equipment. Your 2015 Volvo will not be a "new Volvo car" in 5 years time...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The most likely scenario: Guy driving Roo-dodging Volvo encounters a rogue roo. Said volvo immediately locks the brakes faster than the driver ever could. Unfortunately, the driver of the vehicle directly behind does not have any fancy collision avoidance system and goes plowing into the rear end of the Volvo. Two cars totaled and the roo hops of unscathed...

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      You've missed the notable feature of Outback driving... there is no car directly behind you, or in front of you, or anywhere else. Your Volvo is quite safe from being rear-ended by another car.

      However, as soon as the Volvo brakes, a road-train (massive, double-articulated truck) will appear out of nowhere and convert your Volvo to a pancake, without the amphetamine-crazed driver ever noticing.

      1. Charles Manning

        re: Road trains

        "a road-train ... will... convert your Volvo to a pancake" Quite.

        The roo bars on road trains will henceforth be known as Volvo bars.

        1. DainB Bronze badge

          Re: re: Road trains

          They are bull bars and intended exactly for what they were named after.

          1. Martin Budden

            Re: re: Road trains

            True. When a road train hits a bull the bull simply disintegrates. All the driver needs to do is put on the windscreen washer for a few seconds.

  7. x 7 Silver badge

    "Volvo's "vision that no one is killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car by 2020""

    note : "in", not "by"

  8. Graham Marsden
    Coat

    A Møøse once bit my sister...

    No realli!

  9. x 7 Silver badge

    a moose in the hoose?

    1. LeeE Silver badge

      (To a) a moose (in the hoose?)

      Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie.

      Kangaroo mouse?

  10. Peter Simpson 1
    Happy

    Sounds like

    ...a team has been in the Australian Capital Territory this week "to film and study the roadside behaviour of kangaroos in their natural habitat".

    A Volvo engineering team's cunning plan to spend a Swedish winter in a warmer clime.

    // no Skippy icon?

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like

      > been in the Australian Capital Territory

      Jokes on them then.

      1. DainB Bronze badge

        Re: Sounds like

        Northbourne Av is the main road in Canberra which continues into Federal Highway and if you persistent enough will take you to Sydney in few hours. Every morning there are at least 2 to 3 dead roos can be found on that street in the middle of the city, I don't even want to mention forest around Parliament Hill which is infested by these creatures.

        Obviously ACT is the best place for anyone who wanst to see roos on the roads without going too far from 5* hotel.

        1. Martin Budden

          Re: Sounds like

          It is called the bush capital with good reason. Lots of nature reserves = lots of roos all through the city. I can see a mob relaxing in the trees outside my office window right now. All the main roads (Parkway, Hindmarsh, Athlon, Monaro, William Hovell, etc etc) have multiple roo carcases along the verges. This really is the perfect place to test roo avoidance systems.

  11. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Oh, Deer!

    I know the article stated that Volvo had already set this up to dodge moose and reindeer, but how about white tails? Those things are lethal!

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Oh, Deer!

      For a moment I thought you were talking about these fellas.

  12. ItsNotMe
    Devil

    Hmmm...the dawn of a new outdoor sport?

    With the ..."City Safety" system, which scans the road ahead for animals and pedestrians using a radar sensor and hi-res camera, automatically hitting the brakes if necessary."...I wonder if throwing something of medium size across and in the path of one of these Volvos, would cause it to suddenly apply its brakes and come to a stop. Now wouldn't THAT be great sport!!

    1. ZSn

      Re: Hmmm...the dawn of a new outdoor sport?

      Flying kangaroos now that's a new species...

      1. DainB Bronze badge

        Re: Hmmm...the dawn of a new outdoor sport?

        It's known as Qantas for years.

  13. DougS Silver badge

    Would help with deer collisions in the US as well

    They are also fast and unpredictable, and while fatalities rarely result (generally if you lose control trying to avoid them, or they go through the windshield) they do a lot of damage. A little googling shows an estimate of around 200 deaths and $4 billion a year. They estimate 1 in 169 drivers will hit a deer in a given year. So far I've been lucky and haven't become a statistic but with those odds it is almost 50/50 I'll hit one sometime during my life.

    Could never come close to eliminating all collisions since sometimes they're in dense woods or down in a ditch alongside the road and suddenly jump out - there would no way for IR or motion detection to see them until it is too late to avoid a collision, but even if the car slammed on the brakes and reduced the speed of impact it would help a lot. Might still be a handful of deaths, but that's better than 200.

    1. DainB Bronze badge

      Re: Would help with deer collisions in the US as well

      Close.

      If you never driven Australian rural roads here's a brief explanation how these oversized rabbits function.

      They're usually active in the dusk and they're mostly grey so you can barely see them. At that time they tend to sit under some trees usually in darkest place right next to the road and waiting. For something. When they see headlights of approaching car their brain works like this - oh, there's something bright on the road, how about I go and check what it is and following that mental process they instantly jump onto the road right in front of your car, usually at a distance when emergency breaking is not anymore possible.

      Considering these rabbits weight up to 100 kilos (200 pounds for our metric system disabled friends) and tend to fly right into windshield legs first on speed of 110 km/h it is as deadly as head on collision with a tree.

      1. x 7 Silver badge

        Re: Would help with deer collisions in the US as well

        "emergency breaking"

        sounds appropriate

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: 100 kg

        Close. For our metric-system-impaired (of the imperial ilk) friends, 100 kg would be 220.4585537918871 lbs (or 15.748031496062993 stone).

        For regular El Reg readers:

        100 kg = 23.8095 Jub

        110km/h = 0.001 % of the maximum velocity of a sheep in a vacuum

        Source: http://www.theregister.co.uk/Design/page/reg-standards-converter.html

        On a related note: in the mating season, male elk can be very fast, and totally unaware of their surroundings. Hence the elk test or moose test

        1. Charles Manning

          Re: 100 kg

          Right. It's that extra 20.4585537918871 lbs that kills you, not the 200 lbs.

  14. hekla

    They should check out wombats as well

    These are nocturnal with dark fur about 50 kg also about 600 mm at the shoulder, so walking rock. Not likely on suburban roads and will flip a truck or take out the steering and brakes on a car (and some will say they walk away after the hit).

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: They should check out wombats as well

      I realise this is a serious risk. However, whenever a wombat is mentioned, my memory triggers this:

      She: (dragging him onto the sofa) Oh forget him! What's your name, deary?

      Inspector: Harness.

      She: No, no! Your first name, silly!

      Inspector: Wombat.

      She: Oh, Wombat. Wombat Harness! Take me to the place where eternity knows no bounds, where the garden of love encloses us round. Oh Harness!

      Inspector: All right, I'll have a quick look at yer Thomas Hardy.

    2. Cpt Blue Bear

      Re: They should check out wombats as well

      That's a big wombat mate!

      I've always found them pretty easy to spot and avoid 'cause they don't move fast.

      True story: I met a bloke who hit a wombat on the Stuart Highway at night. Almighty bang and the car is fishtailing all over because the passenger side front wheel no longer seems to be having any part of steering the car. Or holding it up off the road for that matter. He walks back down the road to see what he hits and finds a mound of bloody fur in the shape of a wombat about 200m back. It moves. He thinks "shit, the poor bastard's still alive" and walks back to the car to get something with which to put it out of its misery. On the way he takes in the skid and scrape marks and thinks to have a look at the damage: front passenger side suspension unit punched vertically through the top of the tower and the bonnet. Now he's angry and heads back to deal retribution with a tyre iron but the wombat is nowhere to be found. A trail leads off into the bush.

      That's the point where we found him and gave him a lift to Catherine.

      However, they will not flip a car or truck, physics just doesn't work like that outside of Hollywood, bu I'm sure people have rolled cars due a loss of control after hitting the bastards..

    3. Wizardofaus

      Re: They should check out wombats as well

      Volvo have already checked out wombats.

      In the late 70s a friend was driving at night on the Tidbinbilla Rd in a Volvo 200 series. She hit a wombat at about 30mph (not the wombat) and the engine dropped out of the car.

      The local dealer had some trouble explaining how that can happen to the Swedish makers...

  15. therebel

    I saw a video of Volvo's collision detection and automatic braking recently. It was a test on a real person who confidently stood in it's path. It didn't work as it should and ran the poor guy down. I'm sure it's on You Tube. Obviously a little way to go until the system is perfect.

  16. codebeard

    Feral rabbits and cats

    Volvo should also work on a system to detect feral rabbits and cats, and to assist the driver by speeding up and correcting the steering towards them.

  17. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Joke

    Roo Bars?

    Whoever thought it was a good idea to serve alcohol from a moving vehicle to wild animals?

  18. Tim Roberts 1

    Roos

    Several commentators have mentioned some of the issues here:

    - The most critical time is at dusk when your own driving vision is close to it's worst

    - some people believe that they hop into the road because headlights give them an illuminated path

    - Red kangaroos - the biggest? - weigh in at close to 100kg ~ 200lb

    - many can hop at over 25kph ~14mph and for short distances at 70kph ~ 45mph

    - they can hop sideways as part of their path

    - they seem to appear out of nowhere, so good luck with detecting something off to the side and deciding that it will hop in front of the car.

    Oh and yes, Wombats can also be a problem despite their stature - in a previous life I drove small buses and hit a wombat one evening. The bus was un-driveable - buggered the steering and the wombat didn't make it either. Mostly however, wombats are significantly less common that roos.

  19. Commswonk Silver badge

    What about the laws of physics?

    This system might work if a Roo hops into the driver's "thinking distance" but simply cannot work if the intrusion is into the "braking distance". OK; it's an improvement, but it certainly isn't going to stop every mishap because however hard the brakes are applied the vehicle will travel some distance before coming to a halt. That distance will depend on a number of factors, one of which is surface water (rain!) which might not be too great a problem in Oz.

    I suspect that any such development will fool drivers into believing that any such automatic system will eliminate such accidents completely, when in fact it can do no more than reduce the number.

  20. x 7 Silver badge

    will it detect coons? They are a PITA in the USA

  21. ocratato

    Unsealed roads

    I hope their system takes into account the road surface. Slamming on the brakes on a dirt road will just result in a quick visit to the nearest gum tree.

    I was in a repair shop after hitting a roo, chatting with another customer. His vehicle had been damaged when a roo jumped on top of it from a cutting.

    As others have noted they tend to lurk on the verge (the grass is greener there) and can be panicked into crossing the road when a collision is almost inevitable. Any automated system would have the car crawling along a 30KPH. As Allan George Dyer above noted this will get you flattened by a truck.

  22. BobRocket

    Oversized Rabbits

    If you hit a roo and it survives, what's it gonna do ?

    In the UK we have badgers, whilst not as big as a roo (15kg ave) they are built like a brick a privvy.

    Mate of mine hit one with his Subaru Impreza (he was going quite fast), the front of his car was totalled, looked like he had hit a furry telegraph pole.

    On investigating the badger lying in the road it turned out it wasn't dead, just a little stunned and very angry, my mate had to beat a hasty retreat and sit in the ruined car until he was sure it had gone.

    1. DainB Bronze badge

      Re: Oversized Rabbits

      They are not endangered species so you usually check for a joey in the poach and if it survived take it to nearest vet. It's even more important with wombats as joeys are usually well protected by mother's bone structure and survive very well just to slowly die of starvation.

      1. x 7 Silver badge

        Re: Oversized Rabbits

        "a joey in the poach "

        Sounds like food for a swagman. Is that the best way to cook them?

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