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Volvo is working on cars that will automatically brake for kangaroos

Kangaroo AustraliaGetty Images / Ian Waldie

Volvo is targeting the Australian market by testing technology that can sense kangaroo movement.

The automaker is currently testing a radar installed in the cars’ front grille that will scan the road for hopping kangaroos, Volvo said Thursday. If a kangaroo is detected, the car will automatically apply the brakes to avoid collision.

The system has a reaction time of .05 seconds, which is much sharper than the human reaction time of 1.2 seconds.

The technology is currently used in Sweden to detect for slow-moving animals, like cows, but needs to be refined to accommodate for kangaroos’ speed.

There are more than 20,000 collisions with kangaroos on Australian roads each year, according to Australia’s National Roads & Motorists’ Association (NRMA), amounting to more than 75 million AUD ($US54 million) in insurance claims each year.

“Unfortunately, many kangaroos are active on our roads,” Robert McDonald, NRMA’s insurance head of research, wrote in a statement. “They are often looking for food at sunrise and sunset and it’s during this time that an increased number of collisions occur.”

Volvo’s safety experts travelled to Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, a slightly inland area that is between Sydney and Melbourne, to study and film the marsupials behaviour in their natural habitat by a road. Canberra is known as a hotspot for kangaroo collisions, Volvo said in a press statement.

“Whereas Volvo Cars’ Pedestrian Detection technology is geared towards city driving, our kangaroo detection research is focusing on highway speed situations,” Martin Magnusson, Volvo’s senior safety engineer, said in the statement. “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.”

 The kangaroo detection technology is a main focus for Volvo. The company is aiming to have the radar ready by 2020.

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