Kangaroos Are Confusing Volvo’s Self-Driving Vehicle Tech In Australia

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Some critics of self-driving vehicle technology have expressed skepticism that it will be possible to truly account for all (or enough) of the novel situations that drivers regularly have to deal with.

Novel situations refer, amongst other things, to ambiguous road hazards … such as kangaroos, for instance. Recent reports from Australia indicate the iconic animal is posing problems for at least one brand’s self-driving vehicle tech. Volvo’s self-driving vehicle testing in that country has been hamstrung to some degree by the confusing movement of kangaroos.

“The vehicles’ detection system has been exposed to large animals before — it came across moose while being tested in Sweden and it can respond to deer, elk and caribou. But kangaroos move much differently than other animals and their hopping is throwing off the system,” Engadget reports.

Volvo Australia’s technical manager, David Pickett, told ABC, “When it’s in the air it actually looks like it’s further away, then it lands and it looks closer.”

As it turns out, kangaroos are particularly difficult for humans to avoid as well. “Kangaroos cause the vast majority of vehicle collisions with animals in Australia,” Engadget adds, “but getting the self-driving cars’ detection system to spot and accurately assess them is just part of the development process. Volvo didn’t expect the animals to prevent them from meeting their production deadline. Volvo has partnered with a number of companies including NVIDIA and Autoliv as they work on their self-driving technology. It hopes to have its self-driving vehicles available for sale by 2021.”

While I would be surprised if self-driving vehicle tech doesn’t reach market-readiness at before too long, some of the deadlines that some companies are aiming for don’t seem too realistic to me — as the situation with kangaroos in Australia seems to demonstrate.

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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