Semantic Segmentation of Terrain and Road Terrain for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems

  • Ionut Valentin Gheorghe

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Modern automobiles and particularly those with off-road lineage possess subsystems that can be configured to better negotiate certain terrain types. Different terrain classes amount to different adherence (or surface grip) and compressibility properties that impact vehicle manoeuvrability and should therefore incur a tailored throttle response, suspension stiffness and so on. This thesis explores prospective terrain recognition for an anticipating terrain response driver assistance system. Recognition of terrain and road terrain is cast as a semantic segmentation task whereby forward driving images or point clouds are pre-segmented into atomic units and subsequently classified. Terrain classes are typically of amorphous spatial extent containing homogenous or granularly repetitive patterns. For this reason, colour and texture appearance is the saliency of choice for monocular vision. In this work, colour, texture and surface saliency of atomic units are obtained with a bag-of-features approach. Five terrain classes are considered, namely grass, dirt, gravel, shrubs and tarmac. Since colour can be ambiguous among terrain classes such as dirt and gravel, several texture flavours are explored with scalar and structured output learning in a bid to devise an appropriate visual terrain saliency and predictor combination. Texture variants are obtained using local binary patters (LBP), filter responses (or textons) and dense key-point descriptors with daisy. Learning algorithms tested include support vector machine (SVM), random forest (RF) and logistic regression (LR) as scalar predictors while a conditional random field (CRF) is used for structured output learning. The latter encourages smooth labelling by incorporating the prior knowledge that neighbouring segments with similar saliency are likely segments of the same class. Once a suitable texture representation is devised the attention is shifted from monocular vision to stereo vision. Surface saliency from reconstructed point clouds can be used to enhance terrain recognition. Previous superpixels span corresponding supervoxels in real world coordinates and two surface saliency variants are proposed and tested with all predictors: one using the height coordinates of point clouds and the other using fast point feature histograms (FPFH). Upon realisation that road recognition and terrain recognition can be assumed as equivalent problems in urban environments, the top most accurate models consisting of CRFs are augmented with compositional high order pattern potentials (CHOPP). This leads to models that are able to strike a good balance between smooth local labelling and global road shape. For urban environments the label set is restricted to road and non-road (or equivalently tarmac and non-tarmac). Experiments are conducted using a proprietary terrain dataset and a public road evaluation dataset.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorWeidong Li (Supervisor) & Keith Burnham (Supervisor)


    • Advanced driver assistance systems
    • terrain recognition
    • semantic segmentation
    • monocular vision
    • stereo vision
    • machine learning
    • superpixels
    • supervoxels.

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