If you have ever driven on roads that pass through woodlands and other remote areas, you know the importance of watching for deer and other wildlife that can appear with no warning. In North America alone, deer-vehicle collisions number approximately 1.25 million per year, with 150 human fatalities and insurance payouts close to $4 billion.

Help may soon be on the way. A European company specializing in real-time traffic information has developed an elk warning system currently being introduced in the North Karelia region of Finland with a planned nationwide rollout for next year.

Making roads safer for animals and people

Animal-vehicle collisions are a major risk in Scandinavian countries due to their extensive areas of undeveloped land. With a total population of approximately 20 million, roughly equivalent to that of the state of Florida, there are an estimated 55,000 accidents involving wildlife in Sweden, Norway and Finland each year.

This anticipated new warning system combines gps tracking data from a number of sources to pinpoint times and locations with the highest risk of animal encounters. Information used includes real-time GPS tracking collected by registered members of the Finnish Hunter Organization, which is cross-referenced with several years’ worth of animal-vehicle collision statistics and analysis of wildlife movement and behavior patterns.

What’s next for the elk warning system?

The system, which was tested in collaboration with Volvo Car Finland, was made available in North Karelia just in time for the opening of Finland’s hunting season in 2015. A nationwide rollout is planned for 2016, which will also be the start of full integration in Volvo vehicles. There’s no doubt that North American auto manufacturers will be watching closely with an eye to adapting the technology for their own products.

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