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VW badge with a buzz

 

A seemingly simple device that replaces a Volkswagen’s front badge emits a warning signal of the vehicle’s approach and it is hoped that this ‘RooBadge’ will help reduce the number of collisions with kangaroos.

 

 

The device has been developed over the past three years by Volkswagen Australia and the DDB Group, in consultation with the University of Melbourne and WIRES.

After extensive trials, permission has been obtained from the University of Melbourne Office of Research Ethics and Integrity to move into stage four trials, involving kangaroos in the wild.

The ‘badge’ is a 170mm disc that replaces the current Volkswagen roundel and it produces an audio deterrent.

“It does something no kangaroo deterrent has been able to do before,” Melbourne University’s Associate Professor Graeme Coulson said.

“It’s difficult to produce a single sound that will deter all kangaroos, because the species are different.

“We have worked on sounds that are meaningful to Eastern Grey Kangaroos – dingo calls, alarm calls made by birds and the alarm thumps that kangaroos make to warn each other. 

“We will then be able to tweak the sound for other species.”

Connecting to an in-car app, RooBadge calibrates a vehicle’s GPS coordinates with kangaroo distribution data. This transmits a unique audio deterrent for the kangaroo species inhabiting the vehicle’s location.

A mixture of natural and artificial sounds is mixed in real time and projected in a high frequency audio signal.

“Kangaroo collisions are increasing every year,” WIRES spokesperson, John Grant, said.

“WIRES is grateful to automotive companies like Volkswagen for researching and developing solutions to better protect both our kangaroos and motorists.”

Director of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Ryan Davies, said that Volkswagen is investing time and energy in this project, because it’s the right thing to do.

“A collision with a ‘roo can be devastating and is not easily forgotten once seen, and certainly not if experienced,” Ryan Davies said. 

“Then there’s the possibility of a front-on collision with an approaching vehicle … when one driver is trying to avoid striking a kangaroo.”

The University of Melbourne’s Dr Helen Bender, whose research has been used extensively in this project, said that roadkill is a problem all around the world. 

“What’s interesting about deer, relative to kangaroos, is that they have similar body size, head size and ear size,” said Helen Bender. 

“What we know from science is that the ear shape in the head shape tells us that they probably have similar hearing, so whatever we learn has transferability to deer as well.”

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