Volvo is looking to make yet another safety-promoting technological advancement. So far, its cars can automatically avoid rear-end and human collisions. The next step is to prevent accidents with wildlife, by creating a system similar to the human avoidance one. The focus will be on night-time functioning, and on bigger animals that frequently cause accidents like deer and moose.
The tricky part here is gathering data to program into the system. To do this, the Volvo engineers have had to come up with some interesting methods. So far, they have lined roadways with food that they then drove along to capture film displaying the animals’ behaviour.
Volvo active safety expert Andreas Eidehall explained; “The system consists of two parts – a radar sensor and an infra-red camera that can register the traffic situation.”
“The camera monitors the road ahead and if an animal is within range the system alerts the driver with an audible signal. If the driver does not react, the brakes are automatically applied.”
“The goal is for the system to function at the normal rural highway speeds. In cases in which it cannot help the driver entirely avoid the collision, the system will slow down the car sufficiently to help reduce the force of impact and thus of serious injuries.”
The big challenge is to teach the system to recognise different animals. A team from Volvo spent an evening at a safari park digitally logging film sequences of moose, red deer and fallow deer. By driving very slowly along a trail where fodder had been laid out to attract the animals, a lot of data was recorded and this will later be used to evaluate and develop the sensor system.
With the system requiring such extensive efforts for the engineers, Volvo is expecting to have the system completed in the next few years. It sounds like it will be worth the wait; Volvo is expecting it to cut out over 40,000 animal-related incidents a year.
“In an impact with a moose there is a relatively high risk of personal injury since it is common for the animal to end up on or roll across the front of the car and its windscreen,” says Andreas Eidehall.
“A lot of work remains to be done. Software is being developed and, while the system ‘learns’ to recognise various animals, development is also under way on the necessary decision-making mechanisms, that is to say how and when the protective system should respond.”
“But we know this is important; during demonstrations of the pedestrian detection system we are often asked about protection from accidents with wild animals.”
There are no official statistics in South Africa on how many road accidents are caused by animals straying across the road, but many of our rural roads are still unfenced so it is unarguably a big factor in our annual road accident toll.
Guess the brand is still all about being safe.
Source – Volvo