One of the companies at the forefront of autonomous cars is Volvo. The Swedish firm has been developing systems that can detect animals as well as pedestrians, but has recently found a flaw. While the so called “Large Animal Detection system” can spot and avoid deer, elk, and caribou, it is baffled by kangaroos.
The unique movements of the large marsupial, which accounts for 90% of animal collisions in Australia, confuses the system. “When it’s in the air, it actually looks like it’s further away,” managing director of Volvo Australia, Kevin McCann said, “then it lands and it looks closer.”
This is because the object detection systems in the cars rely on the ground as a reference point, Volvo’s Australian technical manager, David Pickett, told the ABC.
Volvo does offer semi-autonomous features in the S90/V90 and XC90 which it says gives “a taste of the future of autonomous driving.” These systems maintain a safe distance with the car in front and can supposedly spot potential collisions in urban environments. The company plans to release a self-driving car by 2020 and promises no fatalities involving its cars by then.
But you may see driverless cars on our roads sooner than that. The CargoPod will begin a pilot project in the Borough of Greenwich. The Greenwich Automated Transport Environment Project (GATEway) has teamed up with online supermarket Ocado to deliver to over 100 customers in the Berkeley Homes, Royal Arsenal Riverside development.
GATEway focuses on the so-called “last-mile” issue. This refers to getting people home where a car or public transport won’t take them. In other words, direct to their door. “Last mile” includes walking, cycling, or hiring a little vehicle, including an autonomous one.
The CargoPod is a small electric car that can carry up to 128 kg (282lb). If it proves successful, Ocado hopes to have a “wider roll out of autonomous vehicles which, in the future, may play an important role in cutting inner city congestion and air pollution.”
And Dubai, a place not known for restraint, will deploy “robot patrols.” The little driverless cars will have biometric software to scan for wanted criminals or anyone suspected of or currently breaking the law. It even comes equipped with its own drone that can be launched via a rear sleeve, both of which are monitored by a command room.
“It can recognise people in any area and identify suspicious objects and can track suspects. It has a drone and the user [police officer] needs to access the car through fingerprint. It will be deployed at tourist destinations in Dubai,” Brigadier Al Razooqi said.
Fortunately, neither it nor the CargoPod will run into any Kangaroos.