Artificial Intelligence

Kangaroos steer self-driving cars astray

28th June 2017
Alice Matthews


Autonomous car designers are discovering an interesting problem as they begin to test their vehicles in Australia. The unusual way that kangaroos move confuses the car's animal detection system. Volvo’s 2017 S90 and XC90 models use its Large Animal Detection system to monitor the road for deer, elk and caribou, but the way kangaroos moves completely throws it off.

"We've noticed with the kangaroo being in mid-flight ... when it's in the air it actually looks like it's further away, then it lands and it looks closer. If you look at a roo sitting at the side of a road, standing at the side of a road, in motion, all these shapes are actually different," Volvo Australia's Technical Manager David Pickett told ABC News.

The technology uses the ground as a reference point, therefore the cars become confused by a hopping kangaroo as they are unable to determine how far away it is.

Despite the issues, Pickett stressed that it would not delay the eventual rollout of self-driving cars in Australia, but it is critical to solve the problem before they are introduced.

According to Australia's National Roads and Motorists' Association, there were more than 16,000 collisions with kangaroos a year, with nearly 1,000 of those in the bush capital.

In addition to problems detecting kangaroos, the cars will also need to be adjusted for a few other Australian traits before they are implemented.

Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative Executive Director Rita Excell said Australia's many unsealed roads, its unmarked highways, and the huge road trains that move down regional highways were among the challenges.

Volvo has an impressive target that no-one is killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020.

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