There was much speculation in Australia in the early days of Tesla about whether Autopilot would detect a kangaroo and take evasive action. Could it “see” the kangaroo if it was in mid leap, off the ground? Well, here is evidence from two recent events that show sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. (No kangaroos were harmed in the writing of this article.)
The video from Jeff Johnson shows Autopilot coming to a full stop as the kangaroos pauses in its path after leaping into the middle of the road. Please note that this is a small kangaroo, probably female. A big, male red kangaroo can grow to 2 metres tall and weigh 200 pounds. It turns its back and hops away, the car starts moving again.
However, in contrast, Daniel’s car did not stop in time. He has a damaged headlight as a result.
Once you get out of the cities, kangaroos are quite a hazard on country roads, especially in times of drought. The further west you drive, the more likely that at dawn or dusk you might hit a kangaroo. During the drought, they like to eat the greenery at the side of road, grown there because the moisture condenses on the tarmac and drains to the side. They also tend to move closer to the coast as the inland dries up.
During times of plentiful rainfall, they breed very quickly, with a joey in the pouch and a fertilized egg ready to descend. They are adapted beautifully to Australia’s flood/drought climate cycle. It is not unusual to see black mounds in the middle of the road in the distance in times of plenty. A road train will have hit a big red and the crows will be cleaning it up.
No one wants to hit any wildlife, and we take pains to travel when kangaroos and koalas are not active — the middle of the day. If we must travel at dawn or dusk out in the country, it’s best to drive at about 80 km per hour (50 mph).
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