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Kangaroos Befuddle Volvo’s Self-Driving Cars Down Under

It looks like every carmaker is splashing heavily on self-driving cars, but there’s one challenge they may have not considered until now: kangaroos. The technical manager of Volvo Australia recently warned that the animal detection system of Volvo’s autonomous car, which is currently being tested Down Under, cannot cope with the marsupials.

“We've noticed with the kangaroo being in mid-flight ... when it's in the air it actually looks like it's further away, then it lands and it looks closer,” David Pickett told Australian media. The way kangaroos move confuse the software, which takes the ground as reference point for detecting animals, he added.

The way roos move is not the only problem, either. The animal detection system also needs to be able to identify them, and this too has proved to be a challenge, because the animals apparently look very different when they are hopping across the road, sitting, or standing at its side.

Challenges notwithstanding the launch of the driverless Volvo in Australia will not be delayed, Pickett said. A team of company researchers are studying kangaroos in a natural reserve, and are determined to find a solution before the official release date for the self-driving Volvos.

According to the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative, however, roos are not the only challenge driverless vehicles will have to cope with in Australia. There are also many unsealed roads on the continent, as well as unmarked highways, and then there are the giant road trains unique to Australia. The Initiative’s executive director, Rita Excell, said that these factors will also need to be taken into account before the roll-out of driverless cars.

Meanwhile, a groundbreaking study found that autonomous vehicles can actually be programmed to make humanlike moral and ethical decisions – an issue that has drawn much attention. What this means is that situations on the road that pose a dilemma for a human driver—who then makes a decision on moral and ethical grounds—can be resolved in the same way with self-driving cars.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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