Staff Reporters
Apr 2, 2024

Volkswagen unveils device to avoid kangaroo collisions in Australia

Designed in partnership with DDB Sydney, the University of Melbourne and Wires, the potentially live-saving car device aims to prevent both kangaroo and human accidents alike.

Volkswagen unveils device to avoid kangaroo collisions in Australia

With more than 300,000 species of wildlife (including a few creepy crawlies!), Australians are highly aware of the importance of conserving their natural habitats and native animals.

This is why Volkswagen Australia—in collaboration with DDB Group–has put out a campaign to mitigate wildlife collisions on Australian roads, particularly with kangaroos. The project, which is done in consultation with the University of Melbourne and Wires, debuts the 'RooBadge'—a device designed to prevent frequent and often devastating kangaroo accidents on regional roads.

The RooBadge is a simple yet clever device that attaches over the front badge of a Volkswagen vehicle, and emits a warning signal that is specifically designed to alert kangaroos of an approaching vehicle. The invention could potentially save countless lives—both human and kangaroo—and avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage each year. Kangaroo collisions account for about 90% of wildlife accidents in Australia, highlighting the critical need for such an innovation.

The device itself was developed over three years and features a circular disc approximately 17cm in diameter, which replaces the traditional Volkswagen badge. This disc connects to an in-car app that uses the vehicle's GPS coordinates and kangaroo-species-distribution data to release a unique audio deterrent tailored to the kangaroos in the vehicle's vicinity. The audio-deterrent blends natural and artificial sounds, which are mixed in real-time and projected in a high-frequency signal from the front of the vehicle. This sound is designed to be relevant to kangaroos, incorporating elements such as dingo calls, bird alarm calls, and kangaroo warning thumps. It's also cultivated to be adaptable to all four kangaroo species in Australia. 

The initiative progressed through extensive trials and has received approval from The University of Melbourne’s Office of Research Ethics and Integrity to enter stage four trials with wild kangaroos.

Melbourne University associate professor Graeme Coulson, said, "[RooBadge does] something no kangaroo deterrent has been able to do before. It’s difficult to produce a single sound that will deter all kangaroos, because the species are different to each other. Using advancement in car technology we can change the sound deterrent by GPS location."

University of Melbourne’s Helen Bender, whose research has been used extensively in the project, added: “Roadkill is a problem all around the world. What’s interesting about deer relative to kangaroos is that they’re very similar in body size, head size, and ear size. What we know from science is that the ear shape and the head shape tells us that they probably have similar hearing ranges. So, whatever we learn has transferability to deer as well.”

David Jackson, executive creative director at DDB Digital, led the project for DDB Sydney, taking it from its initial idea of a speaker embedded in a VW badge to a project underpinned by data and scientific research.

Meanwhile, the director of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Ryan Davies, said: “Why is Volkswagen investing time and energy in this project? Because we can and it’s the right thing to do. A collision with a ‘roo can be devastating. It is not easily forgotten once seen, and certainly not if experienced. Then there’s the possibility of a front-on collision with an approaching vehicle at country-road speeds when one driver is trying to avoid striking a kangaroo. These are even more likely to have a fatal human outcome.”

Campaign's take: Australia is blessed with an abundance of natural wildlife, and it takes the responsibility to protect it from endangerment seriously—which is both admirable and necessary. The addition of a scientific partner here adds significant credibility to the campaign efforts and mitigates the potential gimmicky effect of such an initiative.

It's also commendable to see a major brand focus on elevating their product with a wider purpose. It will be really interesting to see how the statistics for this pan out because if the RooBadge is effective, not only is it an amazing innovation and brand differentiator for Volkswagen, but it could potentially become a life-changing innovation for all car companies—leading to wider changes by the industry to make driving safer for our animal friends and humans alike. It's a stellar effort, and we will be keeping a close eye on the success rates here.

CREDITS

Client: Volkswagen commercial vehicles
Director, Volkswagen commercial vehicles - Ryan Davies
Head of marketing and product, Volkswagen commercial vehicles - Nathan Johnson

Creative agency: DDB Group Sydney
David Jackson: Digital ECD (concept)
Noah Regan: Creative partner (concept)
Stephen de Wolf: National chief creative officer
Ben Welsh: Chief creative officer
Tara Ford: Chief creative officer
Matt Chandler: Executive creative director
Tim Woolford: Creative partner
Tommy Cehak: Creative partner
Chris Ott: Creative
Nick Russo: Managing partner
Natalija Bouropoulos: Business director
Oscar Kennedy: Business executive
Adrian Jung: Group head of delivery
Renata Barbosa: Head of integrated content
Sevda Cemo: Head of integrated content
Rene Shalala: Senior producer
Tania Jeram: Senior producer
Laura Oleart: Integrated producer
Natalie Greaves: Producer
Morteza Shahbake: Senior art director
Rhys Day: Senior editor

Technology partner: Nakatomi
Research partner: The University of Melbourne
Industrial design partner: Vert Design
Design agency: Interbrand Australia

Music and sound: Mosaic
DOP: Simon Hammond
Production assistant: Mason Walker
Grade: Fergus Hally
Drone: Flying robot

 

Source:
Campaign Asia

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