Kangaroos and insurers both grateful to Volvo

Kangaroo collisions are the bane of country motorists, damaging cars and causing great distress to the driver, not to mention the poor hapless creature on the receiving end, while costing millions in repairs each year.

So far technology aimed at deterring them, such as the Shu Roo or whistle contraptions on bumpers have proven ineffective, but now those clever Swedes at Volvo are developing technology to avoid our biggest marsupial.

Volvo has impeccable credentials to develop such a system. Not only is the Swedish manufacturer traditionally obsessed with safety, but Sweden, too, has a problem with animals on the roads.

How does kangaroo avoidance technology work?

Volvo has already researched avoidance systems involving large animals, but devising a system to avoid kangaroos is more of a challenge.

The technology uses a combination of radar behind the grille and a camera in the windscreen to detect them and automatically apply the brakes. The system processes 15 images each second and can prime the brakes within milliseconds.

What challenges exist for kangaroo avoidance technology?

It’s impressive technology that already exists for avoiding pedestrians but fine-tuning it for highway speeds and Australia’s notoriously erratic big marsupials is quite a challenge.

"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 behaviour is more erratic,” said Volvo’s senior safety engineer Martin Magnusson.

“This is why it's important that we test and calibrate our technology on real kangaroos in their natural environment," he said.

Volvo research kangaroo behaviour in Canberra

Volvo have been researching kangaroo behaviour around the ACT, where the animal is a particular problem. Around Canberra cars are even hitting kangaroos in the suburbs.

Volvo aren’t saying when the technology will be available in its cars but as it’s just a question of calibrating existing systems it may be sooner, rather than later. We’ll have to wait and see whether other manufacturers then follow Volvo’s lead.

Country motorists and Australia’s insurance industry will certainly be hoping so. According to the NRMA there are 20,000 kangaroo collisions each year, costing over $75 million in insurance claims.

The insurance industry won’t be the only ones grateful to Volvo. If kangaroos could speak we’re sure they’d be thanking them too.

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