CARS.COM — Saving lives through advanced automotive safety technologies is serious business, but when we first heard about Volvo’s large-animal detection system, we sniggered a little. After all, the promotional images showing a car avoiding a moose seem slightly comedic when such beasts are exotic or nonexistent in the vast majority of the Lower 48. But this safety feature’s usefulness goes beyond an unlikely caribou collision.
Set to debut in the summer as standard safety equipment on Volvo’s all-new flagship sedan, the 2017 S90, large-animal detection was designed not just for moose, elk … and kangaroos (no, really), but also deer. And that’s where it becomes a lot less chuckle eliciting.
“We’ve been talking about large-animal detection since 2011,” Jim Nichols, product and technology communications manager for Volvo, told Cars.com. “This technology is an advancement from our pedestrian and cyclist technology. There are thousands of large-animal strikes each year that cause significant damage, injury and in some cases, death.”
Deer might not be the biggest among the animals Volvo’s system is designed to avoid, but their annual collision numbers are. According to State Farm, there were 1.25 million car-versus-deer crashes between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015, translating to a 1 in 169 chance of being involved in such an incident. Nearly 200 people were killed in 2013 alone in these types of collisions, while the average insurance claim last year was more than $4,000.
In the U.S., moose, caribou and the like may only be found in places such as Alaska, Montana and northern portions of Michigan, Minnesota and New England, but deer pose a driving danger in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“This tech was designed to tackle the global issue of large-animal strikes on the roadway,” Nichols said. “It has been adapted to each market. In the United States, large-animal detection is primarily for deer and elk; in Australia, it’s kangaroo.”
Large-animal detection, like pedestrian and cyclist detection, uses radar to sense an object and a camera to identify what that object is. The radar/camera combo, according to Volvo, can detect large animals standing on the road or slowly moving across it with their side facing the vehicle. If the system detects a large animal, it warns the driver; if the driver doesn’t react, the brakes are applied to avoid or at least mitigate the impact.