More news on the collision avoidance assistance front, but this time, it has to do with animals – Volvo is developing a system that alerts and automatically brakes for animals on the road.

With thousands of motorists across the globe killed in accidents caused by collisions with wild animals each year, the aim of the project is to develop a safety system that reduces the risk of collisions with said wild animals. The new system is based on technologies from Pedestrian Detection with Full Auto Brake and will be launched on the market in a few years’ time, Volvo says.

The system consists of two parts – a radar sensor and an infra-red camera that can register the traffic situation. The camera monitors the road ahead and if an animal is within range the system alerts the driver with an audible signal. If the driver doesn’t react, the brakes are automatically applied.

As the majority of accidents with animals occur at dusk or after nightfall, it’s essential for the system to function in the dark. The goal, of course, is for the system to function at the normal rural highway speeds, as opposed to the current pedestrian detection system which operates at low speeds, specifically for city usage.

The challenge being faced by the engineers is how to ‘teach’ the system to recognise different animals. A development team from Volvo spent time at a safari park digitally logging film sequences of animals and their various behavioral patterns, focusing on moose, red deer and fallow deer. By driving very slowly along a trail where fodder had been laid out to attract the animals, data was recorded and this will be used to evaluate and develop the sensor system.

In the first stage, the system will respond to large animals that risk injuring the driver or passengers in an impact, such as moose, deer and reindeer. There’s good reason for going with the trio – in Sweden alone, more than 47,000 accidents involving wild animals took place in 2010, 7,000 of them with moose.

The company says that the greatest danger is from collisions with a moose, or Eurasian elk, if you prefer. In an impact with an Alces alces, there’s a relatively high risk of personal injury, since it’s common for the animal to end up on or roll across the front of the car and its windscreen.

The project has been under way for just over a year, though a lot of work still remains to be done. Various technologies are currently being evaluated and software is being developed. And while the system “learns” to recognise various animals, development is also under way on the necessary decision-making mechanisms, which is how and when the protective system is activated to respond.