Volvo has confirmed that its testing of driverless cars in Australia has been affected by an unexpected obstacle in the form of kangaroos. The team’s “large animal detection software” is proving to be of no use when it comes to detecting the exact position of kangaroos which are a relatively common sight in the country.
As explained by David Pickett, technical manager at Volvo Australia, it is the hopping of kangaroos that is making it hard for the detection system to pinpoint their actual distance from the driverless vehicle. When a kangaroo is in mid-air while hopping, it appears further away to the system which makes use of cameras and sensors on the vehicle to recognize obstacles and once it lands on the ground, the marsupial seems to be closer. The reason behind this significant difference between the positioning is due to the fact that Volvo's detection system uses ground as its main reference point for all calculations. Volvo’s detection software has been tested by the company in its home country of Sweden and can identify moose in a relatively reliable manner but encountered this rather unusual obstacle as soon as it arrived in Australia. It has been 18 months since Volvo sent a research team to study kangaroos and since then, it has been trying to figure out a solution for its location identification issue with apparently little success.
Volvo is unsurprisingly concerned about resolving the aforementioned issue since these marsupial mammals are the reason for over 16,000 collisions in the country on a yearly basis, according to the National Roads and Motorists' Association (NRMA) of Australia. Other than this, the company has a few other country-specific issues to take care of, including huge road trains, unmarked highways, and unsealed roads. However, the good news is that the Swedish carmaker seems to be confident that its planned 2020 rollout of driverless cars in Australia will not be delayed and a fix for the kangaroo position detection issue will be found by that time. An update on the matter and Volvo's general self-driving endeavors that the company has been pursuing for years will likely follow in the coming months.