Swedish automaker tackles vehicle-animal collisions

Volvo has announced that it is working on a new project to help prevent serious crashes involving animals.

The Swedish car maker says that its new system, which is specifically designed to sense animals that are on the road ahead and avoid a collision, will hit the market within a few years.

Hitting an animal is a serious concern for rural drivers, particularly in countries with high populations of wandering animals such as caribou, moose or elk - according to figures from the Swedish government, there were over 47,000 accidents involving animals in 2010 in Sweden alone.

Estimates in the US put that figure at between 725,000 and 1.5 million, according to US pressure group Defenders of Wildlife, while it is estimated that in Canada there are between four and eight large animal collisions every hour.

Volvo says that the greatest danger comes from hitting a moose, as the size and shape of the animal means that there is a relatively high chance of it rolling across the front of the car and its windscreen.

The new technology is based on existing pedestrian detection systems and using both radar and infrared sensors to scan the road ahead, identifying animals which pose the most serious risk.

If a collision is thought likely, the system emits an audible warning, and if no action is taken, the brakes of the vehicle are automatically applied.

The automaker claims that the system is particularly valuable in low-light conditions, where human visibility is greatly reduced and the majority of accidents with animals take place.

How to reduce the chances of a wild-animal crash:

- Slow down in areas that are signposted
- Be on the lookout for animals by the side of the road - where there is one, it is likely that others follow
- When possible, use high-beam headlights to increase the chances of spotting the reflection from eyes
- Avoid traveling around dusk or dawn, when accidents are most likely
- Stay in lane when braking - while an animal collision can be dangerous, it's less life-threatening than a head-on crash with another vehicle

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