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Volvo S60's pedestrian detection a plus, but what about animals?

OK, I fess up. I'm the one who got out of my car and stopped traffic for nearly 30 minutes to get an enormous snapping turtle off the road.

And I've probably done the same thing for groundhogs, fawns, cats, deer, baby birds and anything else with four legs.

So when Volvo put me into the new S60 sedan at a press introduction with instructions to keep my foot on the gas and aimed me at what looked like a little boy, I wasn't thrilled. Volvo engineers promised the new pedestrian detection system would stop the car by itself.

My right foot wasn't convinced.

I knew the little boy in front of me was actually a dummy packed with foam and covered with deflectors. The car's sensors can differentiate a human from inanimate objects like your garbage can.

I pointed the Volvo at the dummy keeping my speed under 22 mph -- any faster and the car won't come to a complete stop -- and cringed. Using radar and a camera system, the car warns you're approaching a pedestrian with a tone and flashing light. If you don't brake, the car does it for you and comes to a complete stop.

The butterscotch S60 I was driving did indeed stop, jolting me back into my seat.

The new pedestrian detection system costs $2,100 as part of a technology package that includes adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning on the 2011 S60 sedan that starts at $38,550, including shipping.

Volvo says the system isn't designed to detect animals. Volvo engineers said the company decided to focus on only humans because of accident data. I've never had a person walk in front of a car I was driving. But if that ever happened, I'd want to be in an S60.

This means even in an S60, I'll still be driving people behind me crazy when I detect an animal on the road. Hint, hint, hint Volvo.

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