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March, 2024

Volkswagen, DDB Sydney, Melbourne Uni, WIRES team up to reduce Kangaroo roadkill

Volkswagen has collaborated with DDB Sydney, the University of Melbourne, and WIRES, to develop ‘RooBadge’, a device designed to deter kangaroos.

The device, which fits over a Volkswagen’s front badge, emits a warning signal to kangaroo species of a vehicle’s approach. This innovation aims to reduce collisions with kangaroos, which account for 90% of on-road wildlife accidents in Australia.

Ryan Davies, Director of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said “Why is Volkswagen investing time and energy in this project? Because we can and it’s the right thing to do”.

RooBadge connects to an in-car app and calibrates a vehicle’s GPS coordinates with specifically developed kangaroo species distribution data. The device is a circular disc, 17cm in diameter, that replaces the current Volkswagen roundel/badge. It emits a unique audio deterrent for the kangaroo species that inhabit the vehicle’s particular location across Australia. The deterrent is a mixture of natural and artificial sounds mixed in real time and projected in a high-frequency audio signal from the front of the vehicle.

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

The University’s Dr Helen Bender said: “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”.

The development of RooBadge took three years and involved 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.

DDB Digital Executive Creative Director, David Jackson, said: “Over time this concept just grew and grew. By partnering with The University of Melbourne and WIRES we were able to build a protective audio shield that will have real impact on keeping people safe on our roads. We have also worked with The University of Melbourne Office of Research Ethics and Integrity and industry leaders to develop RooBadge through real-world tests to help optimise our hardware, software and sounds”.

WIRES spokesman John Grants said that Kangaroo collisions were increasing every year and a spike in rescue calls for injured adults and displaced joeys was expected over the Easter holiday period. “WIRES is grateful to automotive companies like Volkswagen for researching and developing solutions to better protect both our kangaroos and motorists”.

The RooBadge will feature in a campaign film that will be distributed via Volkswagen’s website, social media channels and eDMs.