W ohl hardly any Volvo engineer is currently more familiar with elks than Andreas Eidehall. For around two years he has been primarily responsible for the further development of the pedestrian detection system with automatic emergency braking, which was already introduced in the Volvo S60, and studies the shape, color and movement patterns of the Swedish four-legged friend.
In the future, the ambitious goal is for a Volvo to also have animals recognize, sound the alarm and ultimately be able to reduce the speed independently. And since the elk repeatedly causes serious accidents in the Nordic countries, this beloved ungulate is the focus of the 'investigators'.
Wildlife accidents with elk often fatal
Software applies to program that evaluates the data collected by the infrared camera and radar, compares it with all stored elk shapes and finally triggers the warning. At day and night. Many tourists are also familiar with the dilemma in which the developers were initially stuck: Although an average of nine moose live on 1,000 hectares of land in Sweden, they are difficult to spot. Eidehall's dry comment: “Mooses are designed not to be seen.” With their gray fur, they virtually merge with the gray, misty forests. In addition, the animals, which are a maximum of 2.40 meters high and weigh 800 kilograms, like to trudge through the dark night, especially in the winter months - in search of a suitable partner. The risk of such a colossus appearing in the spotlight is correspondingly high.
The number of accidents involving wildlife in Sweden was more than 47,000 in 2010, including 7,000 moose. And the consequences of an impact are devastating, often fatal. The problem: Because of their long legs (center of gravity 1.35 meters above the ground), the adult animals don't hit the bumper, but hit the windshield and A-pillars with full force. Anyone who does not duck back with the presence of mind and fully apply the brakes does not only need a guardian angel. Because the impact reduces the vehicle speed (at 90 km /h) usually only by ten to 20 km /h, and so the accident vehicle, sometimes with the moose on the hood, rushes on at 70 km /h and shocked occupants. The airbags also do not deploy due to the insufficient delay.
Program only recognizes elk, no other game
To prevent such accidents in the future, the developers moved- looking for moose and other fallow deer - ultimately in a wildlife park and collected the relevant data here. The results include the two dummy animals Hälga and Hälge, with whom they are now continuing to test their software on the Volvo test tracks, sharpen it and save braking profiles. The system currently works up to a speed of 120 km /h and detects an elk on a straight road from a distance of 75 meters. When driven sensibly, there is enough space to safely brake the vehicle. If you are traveling too fast, you risk a crash. Nevertheless, the faster ones have also helped a lot, explains Thomas Broberg, Senior Safety Expert at Volvo Cars: “The speed reduction is extremely important to us. Because the lower the impact speed, the more our passive assistance systems help. ”
However, it will be a few years before animal recognition goes into series production. The reproducible comparison between the pattern and the real animal is too difficult. And even if the time came, the system would only recognize moose. The software does not yet take into account the most common animals involved in accidents in Germany - wild boar and deer. Andreas Eidehall should take a look around our wildlife parks. Because with over 200,000 accidents involving wildlife in this country, the interest in a functioning animal recognition would certainly be great. Vice President Development Volvo Volvo has always been way ahead with its safety systems. What developments can we still expect in the next few years?
Mertens: Our goal is that by 2020 at the latest, no more Volvo occupants are injured or even killed. To this end, we are continuously developing our current models in their body structures and assistance systems. On the other hand, we are currently working intensively on the subject of active lateral movement, i.e. warning intelligently of obstacles and automatically avoiding them. You can expect exciting systems here within five to ten years.Can the passive safety of modern vehicles be increased significantly?
Mertens: I already indicated that with every model improvement we also look at the body again. But certainly no more revolution is to be expected here.Will there soon be a Volvo with an active bonnet or night vision assistant?
Mertens: In terms of pedestrian protection, an active bonnet would certainly not be inconvenient. At Volvo we don't think much of a night vision assistant. It only distracts the driver, and that is exactly what must be avoided.One more question about Volvo's model policy.Are you actually withdrawing the traditional five-cylinder?
Mertens: Yes. We are currently developing a completely new range of engines. The time has come in 2013. We rely on small, efficient turbos with more power than six cylinders and less consumption than four cylinders. And if you want to be even faster, you can order an electric motor.He's on the rear axle?
Mertens: Exactly. Thanks to an intelligent module platform, this will be possible for all new Volvo.