Rural drivers have more to watch out for on the road than stray cats. A run-in with a moose or deer could be deadly. Volvo, the Swedish car maker, has a high-tech answer, according to WIRED. The Volvo Large Animal Detection, available in some 2017 models, can detect animals approaching the road—even if the driver can’t.
The radar-based system works during the day and at night, unlike previous night-vision systems that can only work when it’s dark. The radar detects animal-like shapes and movements around the car, and cameras can identify them with certainty. If it senses an animal moving slowly from the side of the road toward the car, it will warn the driver; if the driver doesn't respond immediately, it will automatically put on the brakes. The intensity of the braking is based on where the animal is, how big it is, and where it’s headed, which means it won’t slam on the brakes if it spots a deer that’s already running away from the road.
Hitting a big animal like a moose—or even just a deer—isn’t something to take lightly. In the U.S., the Department of Transportation estimates that between 1 and 2 million cars collide with large animals each year, and up to 10 percent (26,000) of those collisions result in an injury to the driver—about 200 of which are fatal. Moose and elk are particularly dangerous to drivers. Even if you don’t get hurt, it can cost thousands of dollars to repair the vehicle damage from slamming into a big animal on the road—up to $4000 for a collision with a moose.
The technology is programmed specifically for the country where the car is sold, so Swedish cars are designed to detect moose and elk, while U.S.-bound cars are set up to locate deer. But it’s not perfect. It can’t help you avoid hitting Fido, and if the animal is hidden or if it’s out of range of the headlights at night, it won’t be able to detect it. A particularly speedy deer could get past it without detection, too.
Automated safety technology such as Volvo's can make a significant difference when it comes to car crashes. Tesla’s automated steering and braking technology has resulted in a 40 percent reduction in Tesla crashes. Self-driving cars might one day eliminate human error on the road completely, but until then, having an extra set of technological eyes on the road can make even traditional cars a little safer.
All images courtesy of Volvo.