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Title: Situational awareness in autonomous vehicles : learning to read the road
Author: Mathibela, Bonolo
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 8154
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis is concerned with the problem of situational awareness in autonomous vehicles. In this context, situational awareness refers to the ability of an autonomous vehicle to perceive the road layout ahead, interpret the implied semantics and gain an awareness of its surrounding - thus reading the road ahead. Autonomous vehicles require a high level of situational awareness in order to operate safely and efficiently in real-world dynamic environments. A system is therefore needed that is able to model the expected road layout in terms of semantics, both under normal and roadwork conditions. This thesis takes a three-pronged approach to this problem: Firstly, we consider reading the road surface. This is formulated in terms of probabilistic road marking classification and interpretation. We then derive the road boundaries using only a 2D laser and algorithms based on geometric priors from Highway Traffic Engineering principles. Secondly, we consider reading the road scene. Here, we formulate a roadwork scene recognition framework based on opponent colour vision in humans. Finally, we provide a data representation for situational awareness that unifies reading the road surface and reading the road scene. This thesis therefore frames situational awareness in autonomous vehicles in terms of both static and dynamic road semantics - and detailed formulations and algorithms are discussed. We test our algorithms on several benchmarking datasets collected using our autonomous vehicle on both rural and urban roads. The results illustrate that our road boundary estimation, road marking classification, and roadwork scene recognition frameworks allow autonomous vehicles to truly and meaningfully read the semantics of the road ahead, thus gaining a valuable sense of situational awareness even at challenging layouts, roadwork sites, and along unknown roadways.
Supervisor: Newman, Paul Sponsor: National Research Foundation (NRF), South Africa ; Rhodes Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Engineering & allied sciences ; Robotics ; autonomous driving ; intelligent transport systems ; scene recognition ; scene interpretation