Kangaroo Bounces Flummox Self-Driving Car

“Kangaroo” by Peter Firminger is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Volvo has confirmed its self-driving car is baffled by kangaroos because they bounce.

The company is working on autonomous vehicles with a planned 2020 release. Because of the markets it plans to target, it’s including a system to detect large animals such as deer and elk, which can be calamitous for animal and driver alike in the event of a collision. That policy began in Volvo’s native Sweden where stray moose pose a risk.

Unfortunately the technology has thrown up some headaches in Australia where detecting kangaroos will be key part of the safety features for drivers, particularly on rural roads.

The big problem is that the system uses the ground as one of the key reference points for judging distance and in turn the anticipated time until a collision, which informs the best cause of evasive action.

Unfortunately, as Volvo Australia’s David Pickett told ABC, kangaroo bounces mess that up. “When it’s in the air, it actually looks like it’s further away, then it lands and it looks closer.”

It’s not a trivial problem as an Australian insurer estimates vehicles collide with kangaroos 16,000  times a year.

Volvo says that although it’s definitely a critical problem, it doesn’t anticipate it delaying a 2020 release.