Replace the unpredictable dangerous marsupials with predictable reliable robot versions
Kangaroos continue to the bane of self-driving cars in Australia, as automakers say they still can't figure out how to accurately detect the presence of the pouched marsupials. Swedish car builder Volvo told the ABC that the large animal detection software it uses for its auto-pilot system is unable to accurately gauge the …
Or use the same technique the developers of the VFT used back in the 90s (VFT = Very Fast Train, knowing Australia, it has probably been replaced by the FFT by now :-D ).
At a press conference, a green reporter asked what they do, if they hit a kangaroo. The manager replied, "we turn on the windscreen wipers." Not the sort of politically correct, sanitized answer you would expect today..
re: trains hitting a roo...
The train might power on thru it, but hitting one in a car is a very different story... a big male roo can weigh 100kg, and that's enough to make it more serious than turning on the wipers (even more so if they're moving at 30mph at the time).
Wikipedia says "small vehicles may be destroyed, larger vehicles may suffer engine damage".
There used to be stories of roos travelling at high speed "crossing the road" and happening to land on top of a car and caving in the roof. A modern car roof should be able to withstand that I'd guess, but I'm guessing a collision with the windscreen would still be serious enough.
"There used to be stories of roos travelling at high speed "crossing the road" and happening to land on top of a car and caving in the roof. A modern car roof should be able to withstand that I'd guess, but I'm guessing a collision with the windscreen would still be serious enough."
You just don't want to be driving a convertible! Especially true with the top down.
Back when I lived there, convertibles were pretty rare - I drove a Mini Moke for a while and during the summer you'd have the roof up for any journey of more than 10 or 20 minutes or you'd be burnt to a crisp.
Convertibles are much more popular in the UK (i.e. in my limited experience, convertibles are more popular and commonplace in climates where sunshine is relatively rare but winters not harsh enough to make them completely impractical).
But yeah, roo leaping on top of a moke is not really something I want to experience first hand (coming back to my car to find some jokers had picked it up and turned it sideways in the car parking bay was bad enough)
The real problem with hitting a roo isn't the damage the impact does to your car - though that can be substantial - it's what else you hit afterwards. People take wild evasive action and hit something, such as a tree or another car. The impact of a roo is substantial. It can do a lot of damage, including damage that in some cases makes it difficult or impossible to control the car well enough to bring it to a safe stop.
I regularly drive through a particular section of road arund dusk. This is the worst possible time for roo stikes. I don't worry too much about hitting a roo myself - I slow down to 80k or less and keep a very sharp lookout - I worry about the moron coming the other way at 120 who suddenly sees a roo (or just feels the impact on an unseen one) and unexpectedly arrives on my side of the road, out of control. It hasn't happened yet 'coz I'm here to talk about it, but honestly, some people have got no bloody idea.
"I think there will be plenty of unintended consequences when it comes to recognition - something that evolution has had millenia to perfect."
Many years ago working in Africa I had a near miss one night. A local stepped in front of the car without any apparent regard for my speed.
There were apparently two factors. One was the darkness and the lack of reflectivity from his skin and dark clothes - so I had no warning until he was in the headlight beam. The other was apparently that judging an approaching vehicle's speed is a learned skill. If you didn't live in a town that skill wasn't honed to handle cars on good roads.
Somewhere in the Far East it is said pedestrians crossing the street just walk into the multi-stream traffic at a steady rate. It is expected that the drivers will avoid them.
"Somewhere in the Far East it is said pedestrians crossing the street just walk into the multi-stream traffic at a steady rate. It is expected that the drivers will avoid them."
That would be, for example, Vietnam. It is not said that this occurs. It does. I've done it, it's more or less the only way to cross the road. The motorcycles and bicycles move around you like fluid round a cylinder.
Sweden has many road accidents with Elk (Moose) ambling across a road - often crossing between two heavily wooded sections that keep them hidden until the last moment. The car usually comes off worst.
Once saw one wandering across a field towards a lake. It was interesting to see the immediate traffic jam as people saw it approaching with the obvious intention of crossing the road. That would be an interesting prescient test for a self-driving car.
I think roos will stay a problem. On a lot of roads a mob will be grazing on the side of the road and as your car approaches they will bound across the road giving you very little time to react. They will also hop alongside your car and it they manage to get in front they'll suddenly jump in front of your car. It's said that they get mesmerised by the headlights and the only solution is to turn the lights off - not ideal on a dark outback road. Bear in mind there may be a lot of them, not just a single roo. This is quite a problem for artificial intelligence to deal with.
Deer in, he UK are equally as dumb, I hit one in the forest near Colgate, it moved the bonnet and wing on my old Escort back about 4 or 5 inches, broke the rad mounting a basically wrote the car off. I moved it out of the road and reckon it weighed around 50 kilos. When I got to the job I was on, my mate reminded me he was an ex- butcher,,, Doh!
"Deer in, he UK are equally as dumb, [...]"
On a touring holiday in Skye my pal said it was nice to drive on the winding roads at night as you saw the headlights of approaching cars well in time.
The black Highland cow had its back to us - so my pal had to brake hard and finally just drifted slowly into the cow's rear. The cow turned its head - then trotted off
Its backside contour had fitted neatly into the car's radiator/bumper profile so distributing the impact to do it no apparent harm. My pal's new Mazda rotary had its bonnet pushed back by about 6mm - an expensive repair.
"When I got to the job I was on, my mate reminded me he was an ex- butcher,,,"
Many years ago an acquaintance had a venerable Volvo estate. She lived in a country village accessed by narrow twisting lanes. It was not uncommon for a pheasant to appear in front of her - and a quick press on the accelerator stocked the freezer.
Not just that, but the shade of their coats give them great camouflage amongst the scrub the the side of the road, and even light mist can obscure them fairly well.
I don't even qualify as being in the "outback" (hour and a bit north of Sydney), and I have at least 2 near-misses per week,
Or at least screw over your good driver discount.
Actually, the solution is simple, just slap a harness with radar-reflecting plates on every 'roo and wallaby. Problem solved!! Oz, please send my check (Aus $ accepted!) to:
M. (As in marsupial) Hack
""cats are also pretty damaging at 70mph/120km/h."
Dark suburban road. Black cat suddenly appeared in my LandRover headlights. Now with the ground clearance and wide wheel track the chances of hitting it were very small. It decided to stop still facing the car - right in the path of a wheel.
Roo stands perfectly still until you are level, then jumps as your nose passes and ends up trying to come in through the rear door. Don't ask how I know this .
Emus are as stupid as roos, and exhibit the same behaviours as bep describes above.
I have also almost collected an eagle the size of a large child, feasting on roo carcass courtesy of an earlier truck, decides to take off before I get to him and has not compensated for the n many kilos heavier it is . Its talons left a small chip just above the windshield.
Just wondering how they detect large birds and what they do when they take off/land? Wouldnt that be similar? (especially in flocks)
You would kind of think that the default logic would be that if a moving object was detected (or stationary) that it couldnt recognise it would reduce speed & engage avoidance by default.... (That tends to be my behaviour when I see an unknown moving shape on the edge of the highlights at night)... Ok it would mean the cars grinding to a halt more often at first, but as they improve the AI they could manage the situation better.....
Biggest fright I ever had was getting "ambushed" by a troop late at night driving along a remote road....
.... final step will be to get the AI to be able to run away from enraged Roo's/Elephant/Bison etc which may take offence at your vehicle.....
My dad was involved in repairing a small camper van from a pair of stoners once. It turns out that whilst driving down the Highway between Sydney and Melbourne, they thought the best way to account for the boredom was to take some LSD. (For the record I wouldnt recommend this, whilst driving).
Driving along, one of them goes "Woah, dude this sh%t just kicked in! It looks like there's a fridge standing in the middle of the road." The other guy, also staring out the front, said "Dude, I can see it. Wow this is good shit!", and then the pair drove into an actual fridge that had fallen off the back of a previous truck and was standing in the middle of the road.
I imagine attempting to explain why you hit a fridge lying in the middle of the road, to the Police, whilst on LSD, was a difficult conversation.
However, to get back to the topic of logic, the humans in this case certainly had a few failures occur before the accident - 1) Taking LSD whilst driving, 2) seeing something in the road, EVEN if you think it was a hallucination, and not choosing to drive around it... So considering that humans have had millenia to develop logic, should we really expect AI to be able to grasp it perfectly so soon?
"You would kind of think that the default logic would be that if a moving object was detected (or stationary) that it couldnt recognise it would reduce speed & engage avoidance by default...."
The problem comes when they don't recognize it until they're INSIDE the minimum (physical) stopping distance. Now you're in Trolley Problem territory.
No-one and nothing can deal with kangas very well. In fact they owe me a ute,
They are about the most rock-bottom stupid critters out there, practically guaranteed to jump towards a vehicle rather than away given a choice.
a ute or 'utlility' is more or less what the septics would call a pick-up
a septic is a septic tank, or Yank
Many North America animals apparently push roos in the stupidity department.
You don't even need to go for wild animals.
Cat's have no road sense either. They are genetically programmed to assume that they are more important than you are and that you only exist to feed them, so naturally assume that when they want to cross the road you'll just stop. Secondly they are genetically programmed to assume that they are faster than you, so the thought of "I'm not going to make it" never occurs to them either. They just rush on.
I've also got a theory that sheep can't see anything travelling at more than 40MPH. Presumably there is no natural predator for them which moves anything like that speed so why bother to develop sense to cope.
Gibsons Theorem states:
Sheep live a very boring existence. To relieve this tedium the species has developed a game to play, it involves dying in the most interesting and unexpected ways. An apparently healthy sheep that turns up dead one morning (they do this a lot) does not score well. A sheep that catches a string of diseases that are difficult to diagnose, expensive to treat but not so expensive to result in a bolt to the back of the head before spontaneously expiring when apparently healthy scores highly. It will be fondly remembered by it's peers. A sheep that simply gets run over gets points for annoying both the farmer and the car owner but still will get 'must try harder' on its report card.
A record high score was achieved by the highly valuable ram that went missing from the farm of Mr Gibson, author of this theorem. Fences were checked, searches made repeatedly, neighbours asked and eventually the police were informed. The mystery was solved a few weeks later when something of an aroma emanated from the 9" gap between two buildings. Given that the horns on the thing were wider than 9" never mind the belly that place had not been searched. The cost involved in taking the wall out of a building and reconstructing it eclipsed the capital loss of the animal and it's life tally of vet bills and secured the ram a record score in the game of Interesting Death.
One of my exciting motoring moments (read "times i nearly cr*pped myself) was hitting a muntjac deer.
They're about the size of a dog and as solid as you'd expect a deer to be. The end result is a bit like hitting a badger on stilts. Doing the legal speed limit, honestly officer, of 70mph on a dual carriageway at 1am and the little bugger came out of nowhere. Almighty bang followed by the front and back ends arguing about who wanted to have less control as deer puree stole all their grip.
It's something I'll never forget - especially in the middle of the night after eating a lot of cheese...
We have problems with their smaller cousins. These stand about a meter tall wikipedia says they can travel at about 30mph which sounds close. They can jump out of the bushes and be in front of your car in less than a second. Bounding away then 180 degree jump back in front of you. And in plague numbers. You have to get a special permit to hunt them, and have a gun license also (heavily restricted).
After dark, drive with high beams as much as possible and be more wary of the edges of the road than oncoming traffic.
Hitting one will smash the plastic bumper on you car and likely will do more damage. Having said that I have seen a 60foot trailer thrown about 50cm in the air after putting a wheel over a wombat.
Wombats, yes the first time I activated ABS two decades ago was one of those buggers. It simultaneously felt like the strongest braking force* I had experienced in a car and time went very slow, the wombat disappeared under the field of view as the car stopped. They are both properly fast and solid as a rock. If you make contact, you aren't driving away.
*my prior car had drum brakes on the rear. Very glad that I wasn't trying to stop in that.
All we need! cane toads with fricken laser beams.
oh I see what you mean.
Roos are unique as they have a tendency to hit you side on rather than head on. Something about flying through the air at speed makes them feel invulnerable. 80kgs at 50kph does quiet some damage. An auto car driving at speed into a mob of roos in full flight is a scary thought indeed.
I would think that emus would cause hassles as well - the only remedy I have ever found is a meat pie lobbed in the opposite direction of where you want to travel. Can an auto driven car safely launch fresh baked decoys?
If the software was really bright, it might even slow up a bit and let the dumb beast head off into the night
It will simply adjust its speed to match yours; how can it hit you from the side otherwise?
Once in northern Norway I had four reindeer standing in the road ahead of me. As I slowed to walking pace they started to move *keeping to the road* (well, two were on the road itself, the other two just off the road, one left, one right. Based on my experience with goats I expected them to get startled, the one on the left crossing over to the right, the one on the right simultaneously wanting to be on the left, and all four of them colliding in a pile ahead of me in a tangle of legs and antlers. They actually didn't, gradually increasing their speed, with me trailing them at a prudent distance. Finally they figured they had something better to do than try to outrun a motorcycle, and turned hard left down a shallow slope towards a small stream.
 reindeer running on pavement make a curious 'flof-flof' sound
Many years ago in Ireland I met the obligatory herd of cows coming down the single track road.
"No Worries" I thought and moved over as far as possible - which was about a foot from the stone wall (foundations of which were too high above road level for me to get any closer)......
Naturally the herd flowed around the side of the car..... except the really, really clever one that decided it was only 1 foot wide and would squeeze through beside the car and wall.
A beer because I really needed one after that......
My one ever roadkill on a motorcycle in some 400Mm, and even that one was second-hand.
It swooped across the road, got hit by an oncoming van first with a glancing blow which resulted in some rather cartoonesque saltos that landed him right ahead of my front wheel, probably dead already.
 Not counting the 23.7 trillion midges that ended up on every bit of frontal area after a summer night's ride across the Markermeerdijk. You don't want to close your visor because it'll be totally plastered over in green goo in mere seconds, and you don't want to open it either.
Long ago I was driving an under-powered truck up an on ramp. There was a pigeon in the middle of this ramp eating something. I couldn't practically let up on the gas and still merge into traffic, so I kept on, expecting the pigeon to fly away. It did, into the right outside mirror. One of the next stops was to have that mirror replaced.
>when it's in the air it actually looks like it's further away, then it lands and it looks closer
Are you sure Volvo aren't confusing kangaroos and boomerangs? The latter do have that sort of behaviour.
...So I was wondering my the boomerang kept getting bigger and bigger...
...and then it hit me.
I'm in the A&E queue all week folks.
From: THIRD WORLD DRIVING HINTS AND TIPS By P. J. O’Rourke
"Drive like hell through the goats. It’s impossible to hit a goat. On the other hand, it’s almost impossible not to hit a cow. Cows are immune to horn-honking, shouting, swats with sticks and taps on the hind quarters with the bumper. The only thing you can do to make a cow move is swerve to avoid it, which will make the cow move in front of you with lightning speed.
Actually, the most dangerous animals are the chickens. In the United States, when you see a ball roll into the street, you hit your brakes because you know the next thing you’ll see is a kid chasing it. In the Third World, it’s not balls the kids are chasing, but chickens. Are they practising punt returns with a leghorn? Dribbling it? Playing stick-hen? I don’t know. But Third Worlders are remarkably fond of their chickens and, also, their children (population problems notwithstanding). If you hit one or both, they may survive. But you will not."
The "Ball" problem is something that has been a problem for a long time. I covered the DARPA Grand and Urban driving challenges as a journalist and had the opportunity to talk with nearly all of the teams. A ball rolling out on the road could indicate that a child might dart out from between cars and also if you were to see a dog run across the road trailing a leash, it might be expected that a person could be close behind trying to catch up to their pet. This is the sort of scenario that kept them up nights. Birds are a problem as well. Some birds will roost in shrubs next to a road and attempt suicide by all flying out at once. Often times sensors will see the flock as one large object. If sensing resolution is fine enough to identify the individual birds flying close to each other, it can be too much data for a computer to handle. One year when I was covering the Balls rocket launch at Black Rock (same place that The Burning Man is held). I had to pick several small birds out of the grill of the RV that I had rented. The first couple of times birds flew out it scarred me and after a while I just plowed through without slowing down.
I'm surprised that no one has mentioned hitting a frozen chicken. Oh, wait, wrong kind of vehicle. ;-)
The problem with American deer is that they dream of being actors/actresses. And, they frequently mistake headlights for spotlights. So, when they see those beams approaching them on the road, they absolutely must stop and do their rendition of a tap-dance. I think it goes two steps to the right, a hop to the left, and then spin around. Of course, by that time, there's usually an almighty PLOP, and a US$3000 bill for the owner of the car. :-(
I had a buddy who encountered one of these tap-dancing deer at speed late one night. Luckily, his wife had moved from the passenger seat to the back seat, because, when the PLOP occurred, there was also a mighty shattering of glass, and he looked over to see the bloody remains of the deer smeared all over his passenger seat. It seems that they're just about the right height to fly over the hood (bonnet), smash into the windshield (windscreen), and are heavy enough to penetrate it.
Now y'all know why most of the rednecks have pickup trucks with huge bush-bars on the front. ;-)
Dave (who happens to own a pickup truck...
Correct me if I'm wrong, but where kangaroos are hopping in front of your car there are generally no ditches on the side of the road. Is there generally vegetation up close to the road or is there a 'buffer zone' where you'd be able to see kangaroos? The lack of ditches and especially if there's a buffer zone, it would provide autonomous cars a fighting chance to see them out there before they get on the road. It might not be possible to predict their movements, but the car can at least slow down to give itself more ability to evade the kangaroo or stop completely if necessary.
Where I live roads outside of cities/towns typically have ditches on both sides, and often tall weeds in those ditches and farm fields or pastures to the other side of the ditch. After June when the corn is taller than a human, the deer can go from invisible to leaping into the path of your car in one second, which is why deer carcasses (or the dried blood from its aftermath before it has rained) are so common. Hopefully heat sensing cameras would be able to see them even if they are 5-10 feet deep in the cornfield, giving the car much better notice than us meatbags get with our pathetic visible light only eyes.
Kangaroos look like they're probably a little heavier and therefore do more damage to the vehicle and its occupants than the typical deer (at least the white tailed deer around here) so I can see why those collisions are probably a bigger issue from that standpoint. Up north they hit moose which can exceed half a ton, the occupants of a car/SUV often do not survive. Luckily they're slower and don't leap about like deer and kangaroos.
They weigh similar to an adult male human and can move at over 10m/s+. They are unfortunately coloured making them very hard to see in the first place, especially at dawn and dusk where they are most active. They can and do change direction on a dime making appropriate evasive action difficult to determine. The only real way to minimise chances and reduce collision severity is to slow down at those times of the day. They tend to congregate in flocks (called mobs) so if you see one or two in a short distance then slow down.
Chipmunks. I was told by a friend thirty years ago that you could run over chipmunks all day, but never hit one. I called BS on the story, and have been watching for a roadkill chipmunk ever since. Finally saw a flat one (awwwwww) about a month ago. I called my friend at once to inform him, and also retract the call of BS.
Now I feel better that it has been documented on The Register.
Perhaps they are attacking the wrong problem. A couple of whistles attached to the front of the car and animals and flocks of birds get out of the way before you close in.
So, prevention is possible but a cure would be hard with just LIDAR. I think you would need something like infra-red mapping.
BTW: Has anybody seen a motorcycle and rider that has gone through a flock of budgies?
I wonder what a flight of monarchs would do to a tesla
I hit a roo once, or more correctly, it hit me. Leapt out from the side of the road and went straight under the car. Instant death and not a mark on it. Had to drag it off the road. Poor bugger. Or the time an emu came tearing out of the scrub and then did a 90 degree turn and ran alongside the car for 100 metres or so. Software has no chance.
In the case of a large animal jumping directly in front of an automated car, what will the car do? Plowing straight in can likely be the best option as cars are built to protect the occupants the best in a head first collision. Trying to evade could put the car in a head on collision with another car on the other side of the road or onto a sidewalk, off of a precipice, into a building/tree/lamppost etc.
There was just a show on Horizon where they briefly mentioned situations where there is no way of avoiding an accident but didn't really explore how a computer could handle a moral decision. Hit the school bus full of kids not wearing seat belts or the massive Escalade SUV with one occupant surrounded by 8 airbags?
Trolley Problem, IOW. They can't use AI to solve the problem because the problem is intractable (as in someone dies no matter what--no real winner). Actor is irrelevant in this moral conundrum concerning death. I've previously known it from the Book of Questions as the "Guerillas in the Village" question.
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