New Australian technology that aims to deter kangaroos from hopping into harm’s way on rural roads could be exported to other countries to deter similar roadside dangers such as deer and moose.

Volkswagen Australia – working with the University of Melbourne and wildlife rescue service WIRES – has unveiled an experimental VW badge that emits a high frequency noise to scare off kangaroos.

And despite the timing of the announcement, this is not an April Fools Joke. 

Representatives involved in the project have told EFTM they have already received interest from Volkswagen in Europe to reduce the risk of deer and moose strikes – if further testing proves successful.

The technology – dubbed ‘RooBadge’ because it is embedded into the VW logo on the front – is connected to the in-car infotainment system and can alter the frequency and tone depending on the vehicle’s geographic location.

Because not one signal type can be heard by all species, experts say, the VW badge emits different signals and tones depending on the species of kangaroo likely to be in a particular area.

In the information provided so far, it is unclear if the noise is audible to the human ear.

While there have been numerous types of kangaroo deterrents fitted to vehicles as aftermarket accessories for decades, none have been scientifically proven.

However, experts believe the VW system is the closest yet to a breakthrough and further testing is underway after some early encouraging results.

In a media statement Volkswagen says the latest kangaroo deterrent technology was developed over three years in consultation with DDB Group, the University of Melbourne, and WIRES.

For now it is unclear when the technology might be available to the public and what the likely cost would be. But representatives say the intention is to introduce the technology once it has been scientifically proven.

Data shows kangaroo strikes represent up to 90 per cent of wildlife crashes in Australia.

As per a statement from Volkswagen Australia: “Connecting to an in-car app, RooBadge calibrates a vehicle’s GPS coordinates with kangaroo distribution data.”

The circular disc – 17cm in diameter – replaces the current Volkswagen badge.

Volkswagen says the technology “conveys a unique audio deterrent for the kangaroo species that inhabits the vehicle’s particular location.

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

“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.

“While there have existed for some time supposed deterrent devices, none have been scientifically developed or proven.

“[RooBadge does] something no kangaroo deterrent has been able to do before,” Melbourne University’s Associate Professor Graeme Coulson said in a media statement.

“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.

“We have worked on sounds that will be meaningful to Eastern Grey Kangaroos, things like 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.”

WIRES spokesperson John Grant said in a media statement: “Kangaroo collisions are increasing every year and with more motorists on the roads … we are expecting a spike in rescue calls for injured adults and displaced joeys.

“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 in a media statement: “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 [kangaroo] 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.”

The University of Melbourne’s Dr Helen Bender, who research has been used extensively in this project, said in a media statement: “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 in the head shape tells us that they probably have similar hearing ranges. So, whatever we learn has transferability to the deer as well.”