Home » Volkswagen Has A Plan To Make Driving In Australia Safer By Sonically Clearing Roads Of Kangaroos

Volkswagen Has A Plan To Make Driving In Australia Safer By Sonically Clearing Roads Of Kangaroos

Vw Kangroo Warning Ts2
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Drive out to the Australian outback, and you’ll get the same advice across the country. “Watch out for the ‘roos when the sun goes down!” they’ll say. It’s all too easy to get surprised when Skippy bounds in front of your car at the last second, and tragedy strikes. Amazingly, Volkswagen hasn’t just heard of this problem. It’s actually doing something about it.

The result of Volkswagen’s efforts is the RooBadge. The idea is to replace a standard metal VW badge with an advanced “audio shield” that warns wildlife away from approaching vehicles.

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Given the size of the problem, Volkswagen is right to do something about it. Tens of thousands of kangaroos are hit by Aussie drivers every year; they make up 90% of wildlife collisions Down Under.  The results can be catastrophic, often killing the animal. Cars don’t fare too well either; I myself have seen friends lose vehicles to ‘roo strikes, and it can be pretty traumatic in the moment, too. A solution that actually works would be great, and it appears Volkswagen may have one per the video below. Viewer discretion is advised: 

RooBadge consists of a perforated Volkswagen badge with several sound emitters hidden behind it. These emitters play sounds designed to warn away wildlife. Volkswagen has also proposed a rectangular version that can mount to a license plate so non-Volkswagen vehicles can keep kangaroos at bay as well.

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As part of the development effort, Volkswagen has been researching the distribution of kangaroo species across the country. The goal is to create a broad spectrum of audio warnings that work to warn away all different types of kangaroos across the country.

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Introducing Roobadge 1 6 Screenshot

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The badge-based version is attractive, but the rectangular model can work with a wider variety of vehicles.

The initial phase has focused on warning away Eastern Grey kangaroos, with future testing hoping to adapt sounds to suit the Western Grey Kangaroo and Red Kangaroo. In the long term, the idea is that the RooBadge will vary its sound based on GPS data to best target kangaroos in the immediate area. Volkswagen notes it could be altered to work with deer in European and North American markets with further research.

Early testing was done on golf courses using domesticated kangaroos. The research team determined that certain natural and synthetic high-frequency sounds were effective at “alarming and dispersing kangaroos.” Think angry bird sounds and dingo calls. Field testing was then used to develop directional speaker elements that could project these sounds at a significant distance from a vehicle traveling at 62 mph (100 km/h). Introducing Roobadge 1 28 Screenshot

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Introducing Roobadge 1 20 Screenshot
The aim is to tailor sounds to specifically warn different kangaroos. Each species responds differently to sounds of local predators, for example, so RooBadge needs to be tuned to suit.

Real-world testing followed, with Volkswagen’s researchers seeing positive results. Data was captured with stationary VW Amaroks using motion sensors to activate the speakers when a kangaroo passed by. 360-degree cameras captured the kangaroo’s responses. With kangaroos successfully cleared away in tests, Volkswagen has now stepped up to testing with slow-moving vehicles after receiving ethics approval to do so.

It might sound like an early April Fool’s joke, but it appears Volkswagen is quite sincere about its efforts. Yes, it’s clearly a way to market the Amarok pickup to the Australian market, but it’s also an idea with real value. The automaker is developing the hardware in concert with the University of Melbourne and wildlife rescue organization WIRES.

The automaker claims it’s on a journey to create the first scientifically proven vehicular kangaroo deterrent, and that wording is key. All kinds of sonic-repellent devices have been sold over the years to solve this problem. The vast majority claim to generate high-frequency sound via the air passing over the vehicle at speed, but powered types exist too. The ShuRoo is one of the more well-known products, but one scientific study failed to find it had any real effect on reducing roo strikes.

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via ShuRoo
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Products to deal with this problem already exist, but they’re not widely considered effective. Generally, they’re either too quiet or just generate random generic sounds that don’t actually mean anything to wildlife. via Motoquipe

It’s also worth noting that human influences play a role in the problem, too. Water runoff from roads tends to green up foilage on the roadside, attracting kangaroos to these areas. Combined with human settlements increasingly encroaching on traditional habitats, you can see how poor Skip is having a rough time of it.

Volkswagen isn’t selling the RooBadge just yet, as it’s still a research project at this stage. However, it does appear to be doing all the necessary work to create a device that actually works for warning wildlife off the roads. Here’s hoping it actually hits the market one day to save our cars, and more importantly, our hoppy friends down under. Go get ’em, Skip!

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Image credits: Volkswagen, Shuroo, Motoquipe

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Rod Millington
Rod Millington
18 days ago

What my brain imagines this to sound like:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPIoEbbMGLw&t=65s

MDMK
MDMK
22 days ago

If the VW roo deterrent also works on deer, they need to start selling that feature in the U.S. STAT and advertise it like crazy. They’d probably gain lots of new customers.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
22 days ago

Nice! Torch also needs something that works for deer!
Also can we get one that repels people away from newer VW’s so they don’t get stuck with high mechanic bills?
I still liked when I had my 84 Jetta though- it was fun to drive and the 1st car I learned to drive stick
Now I want another Rabbit GTI like I used to have and/or a CRX

James Carson
James Carson
22 days ago

Had two big deer wandering around the backyard on Monday afternoon.

At university the EE students society had a project going in which we designed and built a programmable microprocessor driven bird repellent system. It worked very well until the greenies branded it as cruel to the bloody pigeons and canada geese the clients used the system to keep away from their properties.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
22 days ago

“Make driving in Australia safer” – Let’s review the law and logistics here. How is VW going to ban all alcohol consumption in Australia?

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
22 days ago

I mean when we visited Cairns they were pulling every car on the Captain Cook Highway over and breathalyzing them…that’s far more than they do for that here in Arizona where it seems like drunk driving may actually be encouraged as long as you don’t hit anything (for legal reasons, this is a joke).

Trevlington
Trevlington
22 days ago

I want this to be real but it does slightly have the feeling of a press release accidentally issued three days too early…

Ben
Ben
22 days ago

Hope it works better than the ultrasonic mouse deterrents. Which is to say that it works in any way shape or form because those don’t.

Chris D
Chris D
22 days ago
Reply to  Ben

This should be electric, with a recording or a sound generator and a speaker. The sound will be different at 40 MPH, 60 MPH and 80 MPH. At lower speeds there would be no sound, or a quiet, ineffective sound.
There is also the eventuality of the animals getting accustomed to the noise and just ignoring it.

Nathan Williams
Nathan Williams
22 days ago

North American market needs a Pao size one before Jason has another “oh deer” moment

PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
23 days ago

The South Australian Ambulance Service fitted ShuRoos to their fleet for a short while. They don’t anymore – I think that speaks to the effectiveness of that device. Now they just fit them with plastic “Smart Bar” bull bars in the hope they’ll bounce off…

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
23 days ago

This is going to be fun for people with houses situated close to rural roads. You’re snoozing peacefully with your windows open for the cool night breeze when you are awakened by a mix of angry bird calls, dingos barking, and ‘synthetic sounds’ dopplering toward then away from you.

I wonder if they will try to combine it with infrared sensors & ai so it doesn’t just constantly emit the noise

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
23 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Like a rowdy zoo on a trailer flying past you at 120 km/h

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
23 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

That’s the impression I got from the article. It seems like they have some way of only deploying the sound when it would be useful. Not that hard to do, in this day and age

Black Peter
Black Peter
23 days ago

Not that hard to do, but one of the first non-entertainment, non-profit uses of AI /data collection I’ve seen.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
23 days ago

That would be great if those efforts are successful and can also translate to deer and moose, etc (translation isn’t always easy or even a given; apropos of that, George Bernard Shaw commented that “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” This endeavor [endeavour!] is in Australia, after all.) It’d be a real win-win for everyone involved, that is, animals, people, and Paos.
Presumably VW would have some means of verifying from the driver’s seat whether the RooBadge is functioning properly, especially if some of the sounds are outside of the normal human hearing spectrum? Also especially since such devices, being on the front, would be exposed to the elements (such as wind, rain, sleet, hail, & snow), sabotage (!!), minor collisions like from inept parallel parking maneuvers, etc, etc…
Also, how would it affect animals such as cats and dogs riding in the car? Trips to the veterinarian are already fraught with stress for many animals. Just yesterday I took one of my cats to the vet for his annual shots; of all my cats he’s the most stressed by car rides despite being a big old tomcat. On the way he pooped, threw up, and peed in the cat carrier even though he’d been sedated with gabapentin; I had to stop each time and clean up the poor baby. So I wonder about an option for turning off the RooBadge if it does indeed affect passengers.

Last edited 23 days ago by Collegiate Autodidact
Chris D
Chris D
21 days ago

Very good points. Once the devices get clogged up with dead insect goop they will probably not work as designed, or at all. Can you imagine how much work it would be to thoroughly clean them once a month or so?

Jim Stock
Jim Stock
23 days ago

I am old enough to remember when all kinds of people had those little “noise” makers stuck on their front bumpers for deer. I always assumed they did not do much.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
23 days ago

I’ve only visited Australia (Sydney area) once back in Y2K or so. Great trip. One of the first things I noticed when I arrived was the number of cars (and utes!) that had brush guards (cow catchers, bull bars, what have you) on them. So I asked my host about it. He replied, “you see, kangaroos are very stupid animals.” That was all I needed to hear.

Last edited 23 days ago by Rad Barchetta
Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
22 days ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

I had a chuckle when a comment on the Jac T9 article said they would prefer the Mahindra without the ‘brush guards’ around the headlights – mate, that stock bullbar is barely adequate here in Western NSW.

There’s a reason you see big aftermarket bullbars (known as ‘Five-Posters’) on Landcruisers and the like when you head into the Outback.

The factory bullbars offer some protection from smaller Eastern Grey Kangaroos, but the Big Reds or a big Grey male roo will fold them into your bonnet and smash your headlights in one go.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
22 days ago

Sounds like hitting a moose. Might as well be a brick wall. The only defense is not to hit it!

Last edited 22 days ago by Rad Barchetta
Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
23 days ago

Deer seem to hate the dual tone Fiamm horns I have on my cars. Not sure what it is about them. Anecdotally they’ve scared off a deer per year since installing them.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
23 days ago

Skippy! Skippy!
Skippy the smushed kangaroo
Skippy! Skippy!
Skippy the smushed kangaroo

Skippy! Skippy!
Skippy, the road kill ‘roo
Skippy! Skippy!
VW’s gonna save you

Doug Kingham
Doug Kingham
23 days ago

Surely Torch has enough random gadgets to build something similar for his Pao (aka deer magnet).

Chronometric
Chronometric
23 days ago
Reply to  Doug Kingham

Or a modified cow catcher (cervus catcher?)

Ecsta C3PO
Ecsta C3PO
23 days ago
Reply to  Doug Kingham

He just needs to reverse the Pao particle polarity

Aaron
Aaron
23 days ago

“Watch out for the ‘roos when the sun goes down!”

The say that in Australia. We say “watch fer deer” in the Midwest. The rest of the world just says, “drive safe, I love you.” I think this is strong evidence Australia is the Midwest of Commonwealth Nations.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
23 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

East coast too, more than you might think!

On weekends, I’ll often ride my motorcycle way out of the city to reach the fun backroad twisties; I do my best to do my spirited riding well before dusk, and then definitely on the ride home, shift more of my focus to the sides of the roads. I find it esp. unnerving when I spook them and I can see them running parallel to me; I’m just waiting for them to suddenly cut 90 degrees.

Last edited 23 days ago by Jack Trade
Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
23 days ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I used to live in the Blue Ridge foothills near the Skyline Drive and the Appalachian Trail. I frequently rode my bicycle late at night (fewer cars) on rural roads and highways. One night as I blasted down a two lane state highway, a deer raced out of trees, ran parallel to me then cut straight across my path. It nearly cleared me, but I struck its hindquarters. The deer was spun around and I rode right through the impact, no fall, no injury. All I can figure is that’s its back legs were airborne when we collided allowing it to pivot like gate and reducing the force of the hit. The deer sped off seeming no worse for wear. Me, too.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
23 days ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

And in northern New England, it’s both deer and moose. Moose are particularly bad because they’re tall and if there’s oncoming traffic and a driver is using only low-beam headlights, all that’s immediately visible is the legs of the (rather tall) moose — so in many moose strikes, the car drives under the moose, which brings the animal crashing down on the hood and windshield of the car.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
23 days ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

The roads in upstate New York are basically painted red with deer blood

Tbird
Tbird
23 days ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Same with western PA. The areas surrounding Pittsburgh are absolutely infested with deer.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
23 days ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Confirmed. My coworkers wife has hit, no joke, 13 deer. 13! He’s hit a few himself. The deer here are endless.

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
22 days ago

There was a year where my VL Commodore was a roo magnet for some reason.

I hit at more than a half-dozen of the buggers, at all hours of the day.

Luckily they kept breaking a headlight and maybe the front bumper and nothing else, except the wallaby that hit the rear plastic hubcap head-first!

You could get Taiwan-made headlights for about $100 Aussie and a front bumper from the same source for about $120.

I kept a set of each in storage, ready to replace the busted parts after another strike and then re-order in preparation for the next time.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
23 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

The deer are everywhere. I’ve smacked two in my driving career, and had countless near-hits.
A couple of weeks ago I saw 8 of them cross a road. As I passed them, I saw 7 more about to do the same thing.

Aaron
Aaron
23 days ago

Deer are everywhere. The Midwest is unique in our unwillingness to directly express emotionally attachment – electing to use deer-based warnings as a substitute.

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
23 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

Not just Midwest. I’ve hit 2, one in Utah and one in Virginia.

Aaron
Aaron
23 days ago

Deer are everywhere. But there’s a unique quality to Midwestern emotional repression.

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
23 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

Oh ok I see what you meant. Deer still suck. Damn overgrown rodents

AlterId
AlterId
23 days ago

I’ve seen them on the freeway on-ramp ¾ of a mile from my parents’ suburban edge neighborhood (unbroken woods behind them down past the state line and west to the next conurbation), and in an exurban-ish part of a suburban county not too far away – the first couple looked cute, but the next few miles revealed dozens along the shoulder, bringing to mind the word “infestation”. Most of my driving is urban, so I’ve never hit one, but I’ve seen the aftermath next to that on-ramp and heard of fatalities near there in an area that’s part of a large commutershed.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
23 days ago

But they are quite tasty though

Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
22 days ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Same applies with roos, nice and lean red meat quite like venison.

I ran out of time to make DT my famous roo tacos when he was here.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
23 days ago

Will be interested to see if this works on deer, also, I’ve hit three of those suicidal morons over the years and had probably a dozen or more close calls. Also had someone else hit one in front of my house, came home from vacation with buzzards going at it in the side yard

So far, everything that’s been sold has been Fuel Shark-style snake oil, those sonic animal guards are identical to the stick-on plastic deer whistles that were popular between the 1970s and 90s, seemed like every car that smacked a deer back then had one of those on the grille

Aaron
Aaron
23 days ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Even into the early 2000s, those deer whistles were common Autozone junk purchases. I asked my dad if they worked. He wisely told me, “if they did, the insurance company would require them.” Of course, he also found out the hard way by clobbering many a deer while having the deer whistles glued to his front bumper.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
23 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

You just need MORE deer whistles. Load up with like 50 of them across the bumper!

Aaron
Aaron
23 days ago

Why stop there? Try the Mad Max Doof Wagon, but with deer whistles only.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
23 days ago
Reply to  Aaron

Those whistles are useless. They claim to be ultrasonic, like a dog whistle. Problem is deer don’t have ultrasonic hearing like dogs.

Balloondoggle
Balloondoggle
23 days ago

“Say they’re ultrasonic, then when they don’t work we can tell suckers that they work just fine but out of the range of human hearing! Yeah, that’s the ticket!”

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
23 days ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

A guy on my street has 2 of the deer whistles on the roof of his 17 Corolla.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
22 days ago
Reply to  Lewin Day

If a deer exists in the same general area as a car, it’s going to find a way to dart in front of it

Gary Lynch
Gary Lynch
23 days ago

Kinda like all the bang – a – Bambi we have in several parts of the US. Like Torch, I’ve had a several cars that were deer magnets.

Like the deer whizzer whistles you mention, color me skeptical on their efficacy. They will probably just allow the ‘roos to home in on the exact center of the vehicle.

Phuzz
Phuzz
23 days ago
Reply to  Gary Lynch

Ah! So clearly the solution is to mount a sacrificial Pao to my front bumper so that the deer hit that instead of my car! I’m a genius!

Jesus Helicoptering Christ
Jesus Helicoptering Christ
23 days ago

Will it retrofit on my VW Rootan?

Alex
Alex
23 days ago

I see what you did there.

Beceen
Beceen
23 days ago

Should also work on VW Roobbit. Mate.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
23 days ago

We all know the VW Rootan is really just a Dodge Kangavan.

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
23 days ago

Don’t bother! It’s roobbish anyway. (The badge, of course. Not your Rootan.)

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