Upgrade car accessories: Steering clear of wildlife, automatically

Upgrade car accessories: Steering clear of wildlife, automatically
Date:1 August 2011 Tags:, ,

Volvo is developing technology to avoid collisions with wild animals by alerting the driver and automatically braking the vehicle. The new system will be launched on the market in a few years' time. The project forms part of the company's vision for 2020: that nobody should suffer serious injury in a new Volvo. The new system is based on technologies from Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, introduced in 2010.

The system consists of two parts:

  • A radar sensor;
  • An infrared camera that can register the traffic situation.

Since most collisions with wild animals take place when visibility is limited, infrared is a must. 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 applied automatically.

Says Andreas Eidehall, active safety technical expert at Volvo: "The goal is for the system to function at normal rural highway speeds. Where it cannot help the driver…avoid the collision, the system will slow down the car sufficiently to help reduce the force of impact and thus of serious injuries."

One challenge facing the engineers is to teach the system to recognise different animals. A development team from Volvo Car Corporation spent an evening at a safari park digitally logging film sequences of animals and their various behavioural patterns. On this particular evening, the focus was on moose, red deer and fallow deer. By driving very slowly along a trail where fodder had been laid out to attract the animals, they managed to record a large volume of data which will be used to evaluate and develop the sensor system.

Many car drivers are highly concerned about the risk of collisions with wild animals – and there’s good reason to be concerned. In Sweden alone, more than 40 000 accidents involving wild animals are reported every year. The greatest danger is from collisions with moose..

According to US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety statistics for the period 1993-2007, 2 499 people died in road accidents involving animals during this period. The report also states that the number of road accidents involving wild animals increases by almost 30 per cent in the northern winter. With South Africa’s extensive road network in rural areas, where domestic and wild animals are found near roadways, there’s relevance for us as well.

Says Eidehall: “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.” In South Africa’s case, think kudu, stray cows…

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