As you probably know, the automotive manufacturer Volvo has long been associated with safety. Thus it is not so surprising to learn that Volvo is hard at work on a new approach for automobile accident avoidance.
First a bit of background to understand how and why Volvo engineers went about this in the manner they chose. If you do not are not familiar with the northernmost roads found in Sweden you may not realize that these roads are frequented by rather large lumbering animals.
Think large sized animals such as moose. Or reindeer with large antlers that have an inconvenient habit of suddenly popping out of woods and bounding across the roadway. Or even bears that pretty much ignore the fences along these roadways. The fact of the matter is that these fences do little if anything to curtail wondering wildlife from traversing across or alongside these Swedish roads.
Now add to this the all too frequent ice and snow not to mention darkness that make an ordinary auto trip quite the adventure. That sort of harsh driving conditions led the Volvo engineering team to focus on an a rather innovative approach to braking.
As you might imagine, one challenge faced by the engineers was determining a method to determine both when and if an animal is nearby and if so, if there is a real threat to safety involved. The solution arrived at makes uses of a combination of radar technology that is tied into real time video cameras that work together to calculate the animal’s size, location and movement.
Get this: the system functions by determining when and if braking needs to be applied (automatically of course) to minimize the risk of losing control and/or striking the oncoming animal. Understand that the system is configured to recognized quite the variety of animals by matching captured images through the onboard camera system with the computer’s data base of animals, objects and other shapes.
Incredibly, this technology is such that the computer can be specifically programmed for different parts of the world. In Sweden itself, the system is programmed to be on the lookout for moose and such as discussed above. Alternatively, the system can be programmed for North America to be on the lookout for deer. You may well be aware that in the U.S. there are actually thousands of crashes every year involving wandering deer.
As you can see, the Volvo animal spotting and response system is a giant step forward for automotive safety. Perhaps soon, this type of system could be enhanced by the ability to spot and avoid smaller animals as well (a current limitation).