Rural Australian drivers don’t really have to worry about psychotic motorcyclists as much as Mad Max you lead you to believe. But they do have a scourge far more deadly; evil beasts called kangaroos. Volvo’s tech to deal with them could be a huge leap in collision-avoidance.
Like deer in the United States, kangaroos get in the way of cars and cause crashes. And the hopping beasts can be real tough to avoid: Australia’s National Roads & Motorists’ Association says there are more than 20,000 kangaroo collisions a year.
But who cares? Australia has less than 25 million people living in it, most of whom are concentrated in cities were the kangaroos don’t really hang out.
Actually, these animals present a unique challenge to collision-avoidance engineers because of their profound stupidity and weak senses.
Kangaroos can hear, but they don’t see very well. When a car approaches they know they have to move but which way?! I’ve been kicked off three different motorcycles by the things trying to get out of my way, and seen them jump into the side of a rolling car in another ruefully pathetic attempt to escape.
There’s a reason a lot of hardcore truck bumpers come from Australian companies; in one year of leading outback off-road tours I can remember the things bouncing off our support rig’s battering bar like flies at nighttime.
Aussies are still going to want a strong slab of metal on the front of their outback machines, you can’t just dart around these hoppy bastards. You’ve got to bob, weave, and tango with the varmints if you want any hope of getting around. If Volvo can make a car dodge a ‘roo it could probably dodge just about anything.
The company’s doing research on how to get that done at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve near Canberra. Volvo says what they’re doing is dialing in their City Safety equipment suite, “which detects cars, cyclists and pedestrians both during the day and night.”
Quicker response time and predictive abilities for Volvo’s radar sensors, cameras, and computers will help keep the cars out of trouble. As it stands, an equipped Volvo can take evasive action in 0.05 seconds. A big step up over a human driver, which Volvo says takes an eternal 1.2 to make the same move.
Images via Volvo
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