Swedish automaker Volvo says its engineers have run up against a unique problem in the development of self-driving car technology: Kangaroos.
According to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) report, Volvo has been in Australia testing its self-driving car systems since early 2016 and in that time has discovered it will take some work to program the cars to recognize the kangaroo’s unique movements.
Volvo says they’ve long since figured out how to pick out large animals like the moose and caribou that dominate the wilds of northern Europe. Kangaroos present more of a challenge, however, because they look different when standing versus sitting. Pedestrian detection systems have to make a similar differentiation, because humans come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.
But while software can be programmed to recognize the way a person walks, kangaroos get around by hopping, and a ‘roo in mid-hop looks further away than when its feet are on the ground, and that’s what’s tripping up Volvo’s self-driving sensors.
Volvo says the kangaroo conundrum won’t delay their planned rollout of driverless cars in Australia, but that it is a critical puzzle to solve before it begins selling self-driving cars in 2021: According to insurance provider NRMA, there are 16,000 car-kangaroo collisions every year.
Volvo’s self-driving technologies are already in play in Sweden, where the carmaker has put autonomous versions of its XC90 SUV on the streets of Gothenburg; it has also pledged that by 2020, its cars will be so safe that no one will die in a new Volvo from that point forward.
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