Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Volvo

Although the Volvo XC90 is a global car, some geographies have safety challenges that others lack.

For example, according to the Australian National Roads & Motorists’ Association, there are some 20,000 collisions with kangaroos Down Under every year, costing motorists in excess of $75-million (Australian dollars).

So last fall, Volvo Cars sent a team to Oz, to the Australian Capital Territory, to the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve near Canberra, to study the roadside behavior of kangaroos to develop kangaroo detection and avoidance for its vehicles. 

Volvo features what it calls its “City Safety” system in its vehicles that uses a radar system mounted in the grille to scan the roadway for moving objects; there is a light-sensitive, high-resolution camera mounted near the rearview mirror that works with the camera system. When an object is detected, the on-board computer reacts within 0.05 seconds. It can fully brake the vehicle if the driver doesn’t respond to the audio and visual warning signals.

According to Martin Magnusson, Volvo Cars senior safety engineer, “Whereas Volvo Cars’ Pedestrian Detection technology is geared toward city driving, our kangaroo detection research is focusing on highway speed situations. Kangaroos are very unpredictable animals and difficult to avoid, but we are confident we can refine our technology to detect them and avoid collisions on the highway.”

Volvo has done research in Sweden on animals that are more of a driving hazard there: “larger, slowing moving animals like moose, reindeer and cows which are a serious threat on our roads,” Magnusson said. “Kangaroos are smaller than these animals and their behavior is more erratic.”