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Volvo extends collision avoidance tech to wildlife

Avoiding animals: Volvo is extending its collision avoidance programming to recognise errant wildlife such as deer.

Animal avoidance system plus a new smartphone app unveiled by Volvo Cars

Volvo logo13 Jun 2011


SAFETY pioneer Volvo is developing a system to help drivers avoid collisions with wildlife, which it hopes to bring to market within a few years.

The program is an evolution of Volvo’s Pedestrian Detection system – available as an option on the Australian S60 and V60.

However, unlike the pedestrian program, the animal avoidance system will not be confined to low-speed, urban areas because rural roads with faster speed limits are the most likely place to come across large wildlife such as deer and moose.

The Swedish company is currently programming software to recognise large animals, which pose the biggest risk of injury on impact.

While this development is likely to extend to animals like horses, cows and camels, programming the system to recognise and react to more unique Australian wildlife such as kangaroos and emus could be more difficult.

The system will work by using an infra-red camera to scan the road ahead, alerting the driver with an audible signal when an animal is detected. If the driver does not react to the audible warning, the brakes will be applied automatically.

 center imageLeft: The Volvo smartphone app remotely displays the car's location on a map.

The use of an infra-red camera will also allow it to function at dusk and nightfall, when wildlife is most active.

Volvo said the big challenge facing its engineers is ‘teaching’ the system to recognise different animals in terms of their size, shape and typical behaviour and to gauge the appropriate response to each situation.

An engineering team from the Scandinavian manufacturer recently spent the night at a safari park digitally logging film sequences of moose, red deer and fallow deer feeding along a trail.

While Australian statistics are scarce, the Swedish Advisory Council on Accidents Involving Wild Animals states that there were some 47,000 accidents involving wild animals in that country alone in 2010.

US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety figures show that 2499 people died in animal-related road accidents on US roads from 1993-2007.

In other technology news, Volvo Cars has released a smart phone application that lets the owner ‘keep in touch’ with their car from a distance on their iPhone or Android device.

Features of the system, which the company claims is “the most comprehensive and broadly available application in Europe”, include the ability to remotely lock the doors, turn on the heater and access the vehicle’s dashboard and trip computer information remotely.

The application also allows the owner to check oil and fluid levels from their phone, store driving data from each trip (ideal for fleets), access vehicle data such as VIN and registration numbers and receive a message when the alarm is triggered.

Finally, for anyone who has ever forgotten where they parked the car, there is a function that displays the vehicle’s location on a map and guides the owner to it via a digital compass.

The system is based on Volvo’s own On Call in-car emergency communications system and is similar to GM’s OnStar remote diagnostics software that offers similar features.

The app is available as a free download on any 2012 Volvos with the existing On Call software in Europe and Russia, but any future Australian launch is unclear at this stage.

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