Volkswagen Is Trying to Reduce Kangaroo Collisions in Australia

A device called the Roobadge is in development

VW's Roobadge
Volkswagen's Roobadge was designed to deter kangaroo collisions.

If you live and drive somewhere with large wildlife near roads, it’s almost inevitable that vehicles are going to end up colliding with them. That’s a situation that often ends with an animal dead or injured and a vehicle damaged – especially if an especially large animal is involved. It’s one of the reasons governments are exploring building wildlife crossings — and it’s prompted one automaker to seek out the technology to prevent such crashes.

As Autoblog’s Jonathon Ramsey reports, Volkswagen is developing a device called Roobadge with the goal of reducing vehicular collisions with kangaroos in Australia. The device is mounted on bumpers and projects audio that would alert kangaroos that something dangerous is approaching.

Volkswagen has partnered with both the University of Melbourne and the animal rescue organization Wires on this project — and their announcement states that they hope that the tech can be utilized for similar purposes for large wildlife around the world. It’s not hard to see the appeal of a device that would reduce the odds of hitting a deer on, say, roads around the northeastern U.S. in autumn.

To address the elephant (or possibly the kangaroo wearing an elephant costume) in the room: yes, the timing of this relative to April Fool’s Day is a bit suspicious. And yes, Volkswagen has made high-concept pranks around this time of year before. On the other hand, the page dedicated to Roobadge features a video abounding with dashcam footage of several drivers striking kangaroos. If this is a prank, it’s one with either a substantial special effects budget or a high marsupial body count.

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The project is more complex than you might expect. According to Volkswagen’s documentation, different species of kangaroos are alarmed by different things — so the sound of dingoes or certain predatory bird species might not be a universal deterrent. Hence Roobadge making use of both GPS and machine learning technology. It’s a high-tech solution to an elemental problem — and one that’s been an issue for drivers for nearly as long as vehicles have been on the nation’s roads.

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