Queensland Transport Infrastructure Conference 2021

25-26 May 2021
Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
Brisbane, QLD

Volvo teaching its driverless cars to avoid kangaroos for Australian market

Posted On May 13, 2016

Driverless cars are so close to starting in Australia, Volvo is now "teaching" its automotive cars how to react to jumping kangaroos in the outback.

In five years' time, the term "flying kangaroo" will have a completely new meaning to the Australian car commuter.

Volvo Australia's engineering and certification manager David Pickett told Queensland's Transport Infrastructure Conference in Brisbane the company was "teaching" its cars how to react to kangaroos because there were 20,000 collisions between kangaroos and cars each year in Australia.

Those 20,000 collisions incur a $75 million cost to Australian insurers and motorists.

Kangaroos are the Australian equivalent of the 800-kilogram, two-metre tall moose which has dominated Swedish "automotive" car planning to date, Mr Pickett said.

"Moose strike in Sweden is a massive issue. It's probably the equivalent of the kangaroo for us," Mr Pickett said.

However the Australian kangaroo jumps in midair, while the Swedish moose and the common cow keeps its hooves on the ground.

"We've got programs in train with detecting large animals like cattle and moose, but if you look at roos you'll see they are very different," he said. "It's a situation where you are asking the intelligent sensors in the car, 'Are you looking for a kangaroo sitting beside the road, or am I looking for a kangaroo that is travelling at speed?'

"And a horse or a cow always has one or two hooves on the ground, whereas you will see some photographs of a kangaroo and it will be in midair.

"So how you teach a car what to look for and how to react when something is just 'floating in space' is a challenge that the engineers just jumped at."

That led to trials at a nature reserve in Canberra where engineers drove around filming kangaroos.

That "flying kangaroo" data was being fed into Volvo's planning for its world-first experiment in 2017 when it will let 100 self-driving cars drive 100 commuters each day.

In Volvo's Drive Me experiment, 100 Swedes will "pilot" cars on selected public roads in Sweden that will steer, brake, accelerate, slow, react to problems from pedestrians, cyclists, other traffic and animals and then park using technology being incorporated into everyday use.

When Volvo's "automotive driving" gets to Australia, their cars will presumably be able to react to jumping kangaroos.

"It will be the world's first automotive vehicles trial on public roads and it will have 100 vehicles," Mr Pickett said.

"There will be people chosen to drive these cars and they will just drive to and from work."

A similar trial will then run in London is 2017-18.

The "automotive" cars use cameras, laser, radar, three-dimensional navigational mapping, with extra layers of detail and "cloud-stored" data, linked to local traffic control management centres.

Mr Pickett said it was clear people still wanted to be able to drive their cars and steering wheels would remain for the near future.

The motorist would choose to engage the "self-drive function" from a short paddle on the steering wheel stalk, then be free to do other things while being driven to work.

Volvo have developed systems where if the car continues on road that is not included as safe for "driverless operation", the car will pull over and park.

Outside the conference, Mr Pickett said the Drive Me experiment would allow planners to see what drivers did - and how they reacted - while their cars were driven by an elaborate computer system.

"It will steer, it will follow the cars in front and allow them to do something else -  for example continue doing emails if you like - whilst they are in the car," he said.

"As a basic example if you had a quick email that you needed to do before you left the office, but you will be late home for dinner if you stayed, now you will be able to get in the car, spent the 30 minutes and do the email and still be home in time for dinner."

SOURCE: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/innovation/volvo-teaching-its-driverless-cars-to-avoid-kangaroos-for-australian-market-20160511-gosuyi.html

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