Volvo Looking Out for Wild Animals

In many parts of the country, deer and other large wild animals pose a great danger to themselves and to vehicle occupants traveling through their habitat.

As part of Volvo?s quest to keep anyone from suffering a serious injury while riding in a new Volvo, engineers have developed a new way to help prevent animal/vehicle collisions by adapting technologies created for the Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake system, introduced in 2010.

“The system consists of two parts – a radar sensor and an infra-red camera that can register the traffic situation,” relates Andreas Eidehall, technical expert in the field of active safety systems at Volvo Car Corporation.

It is essential for the system to also function in the dark since most collisions with wild animals take place at dawn and dusk and during the dark winter months. 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,” continues Andreas Eidehall.

One challenge facing the engineers is to teach the system to recognize 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 behavioral 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, a lot of data was recorded and this will later be used to evaluate and develop the sensor system.

In the first stage, the system will respond to large animals that risk injuring the driver or passengers in an impact, such as moose, deer and reindeer.

As regards the system and its various functions, Andreas cannot be more specific. The project has been under way for just over a year and a lot of work still remains to be done. Various technologies are currently being evaluated, software is being developed and while the system “learns” to recognize various animals, development is also under way on the necessary decision-making mechanisms, that is to say how and when the protective system is to respond.
“We can see in our accident statistics that this is an important area to prioritize. What is more, we know that there is considerable market interest in this type of safety system. During demonstrations of Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake, we were often asked about protection from accidents with wild animals. We will present a market-ready system within a few years,” concludes Andreas Eidehall.

The US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has compiled statistics for the period 1993-2007. All told, 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 percent in November. The largest insurance company in the USA, State Farm, reports that the number of compensation claims for road accidents involving wild animals rose by 14.9 percent between 2003 and 2008.



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