Signature Study for Vehicle-Animal Collision Avoidance (VACA)

Michigan Tech Research Institute (MTRI) and Toyota’s Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) are undertaking a project to measure the RADAR and LIDAR signatures of deer to better understand the visibility of deer by existing sensors used in assisted driving and collision avoidance systems. These signatures will allow engineers to estimate performance of sensors, and provide design guidance for algorithm developers.

"While the state's two million deer are most active in spring and fall, vehicle-deer crashes are a year-round problem. Each year, there are more than 60,000 reported vehicle-deer crashes in Michigan. About 80 percent of these crashes occur on two-lane roads between dusk and dawn. The most serious crashes occur when motorists swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or a fixed object, or when their vehicle rolls over."
Michigan State Police Office of Highway Safety Planning

Based on a total estimate of one million deer-vehicle collisions per year in the United States, the estimated total cost associated with deer-vehicle collisions is calculated to be $8,388,000,000 (per year in the United States) (Huijser et. al 2008).

Measuring RADAR and LIDAR Signatures of Deer

The measurements made by the data collection team, capture the deer standing alone, feeding, walking, running, doe with fawns, bucks grooming each other and deer in groups. These are used to develop statistical models of the returns from deer expected for automotive active safety systems. The models characterize the detectability of deer with the sensors and provide information fundamental for system design and algorithm development.

RADAR/LIDAR Sensing System

In the spring of 2014, MTRI collected hundreds of thousands of measurements of white-tail deer with the RADAR/LIDAR sensor suite. The W-Band RADAR is operating at 76.2 to 76.8 GHz and the LIDAR sensor is operating at 905 nm. The collection area contains calibration targets allowing the measurements to be compared against targets with known cross-sections.

Examples from the the spring 2014 simultaneous data collection are below. We vertically translated the scene for a 3D effect, using the RADAR, LIDAR, and a quadcopter for an aerial view.






“Measurements of deer with RADAR and LIDAR for active safety systems,” abstract submitted: SAE World Congress & Exhibition, Active Safety Systems, Detroit, Michigan, April 2015.

M.P. Huijser, P. McGowen, J. Fuller, A. Hardy, A. Kociolek, A.P. Clevenger, D. Smith and R. Ament "Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction Study: Report to Congress," Report No. FHWA-HRT-08-034 , August 2008.

For Additional Information

William Buller
Research Engineer


Sponsoring Organization

Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA)


Fall 2014 - Watch the Project Overview Video from the Toyota Advanced Safety Seminar 2014

Spring 2014 - Field collection at the Michigan White-tail Hall of Fame Museum in Grass Lake, Michigan


RADAR and LIDAR Hardware

In the News

Toyota Advanced Safety Seminar - September 2014

How LIDAR Helps Cars "See" - September 2014