Terrain Classification

Terrain Classification

Terrain classification includes the detection of obstacles and passable areas as well as the analysis of ground surfaces. A 3D laser range finder is used as primary sensor for perceiving the surroundings of the robot. First of all, a grid structure is introduced for data reduction. The chosen data representation allows for multi-sensor integration, e.g., cameras for color and texture information or further laser range finders for improved data density. Subsequently, features are computed for each terrain cell within the grid. Classification is performed with a Markov random field for context-sensitivity and to compensate for sensor noise and varying data density within the grid. A Gibbs sampler is used for optimization and is parallelized on the CPU and GPU in order to achieve real-time performance. Dynamic obstacles are detected and tracked using different state-of-the-art approaches. The resulting information — where other traffic participants move and are going to move to — is used to perform inference in regions where the terrain surface is partially or completely invisible for the sensors. Algorithms are tested and validated on different autonomous robot platforms and the evaluation is carried out with human-annotated ground truth maps of millions of measurements. The terrain classification approach of this thesis proved reliable in all real-time scenarios and domains and yielded new insights. Furthermore, if combined with a path planning algorithm, it enables full autonomy for all kinds of wheeled outdoor robots in natural outdoor environments.

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