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Addressing Australia’s kangaroo-car collision dilemma

Addressing Australia’s kangaroo-car collision dilemma

Kangaroo-Car Collision

In the Australian outback, kangaroo-related car accidents pose a significant financial and infrastructural dilemma. Despite measures from companies like Volvo to deter wildlife from roads, these efforts have been largely ineffective in curbing the pervasive kangaroo problem, with damages typically exceeding $5,000 AUD per mishap. We’ve yet to find a cost-effective, efficient technology to start solving this problem, and it ranks high on the to-do list of the Australian auto industry.

Local residents, including Shane Williams who checks roadside kangaroo fatalities, have seen first-hand the devastating impacts of these incidents. It’s not just the adult kangaroos suffering; their young are victims too. Tasks such as marking checked kangaroo corpses are vital, helping reduce unnecessary examinations and to keep count of fatalities. Such sights, though distressing, play a crucial role in raising awareness within these communities.

In 2018, more than 12,000 auto incidents involving kangaroos and wallabies resulted in insurance claims to Australia’s National Roads and Motorist’s Association.

Tackling the kangaroo-car collision issue

This stark figure underlines the urgent need for better prevention strategies, with potential measures being explored, from wildlife-sensitive road design to advanced warning systems and educational efforts.

While initial approaches to this issue focused on car reinforcement, the focus has now pivoted towards advanced accident prevention technologies. Kangaroos’ unpredictable jumping patterns still pose a unique challenge, redirecting efforts towards better understanding kangaroo behaviour to enhance tech response.

Historically, a major breakthrough came in the form of an animal detection system developed by Magnus Gens of KTH Royal Institute of Technology, working alongside Saab. Using a moose dummy for fatal accident simulation, the system initiated a significant reduction in deadly animal-related accidents. When implemented by Volvo in 2016, it garnered widespread recognition and adoption.

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Yet, this innovative system has struggled with the unique speed and movement of kangaroos. Volvo’s David Pickett noted the challenge of developing an accurate ground detection system for the hopping marsupials. The hopping motion, coupled with the fact kangaroos often travel in groups, presents hurdles for the detection system that warrants ongoing optimisation.

In the meantime, with current measures proving largely ineffective and a mix of vehicles and unpredictably hopping kangaroos persisting on Australian roads, drivers in kangaroo-prone areas are advised to be extra vigilant, especially during active dawn and dusk periods.

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