For next-gen intelligent traffic systems LiDAR is the new normal


LiDAR solutions is on its way to revolutionise Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS). LiDAR, a technology that uses beams of laser light to detect objects and measure distances, has played a pivotal role in the development of self-driving vehicles. This technology also helps cars to identify objects and navigate around them safely. As compared to the mechanical LiDAR predecessors, solid-state LiDAR has invaded the autonomous car industry as they are more robust, compact and cost-effective.

Self-driving cars rely on 3D LiDAR system. However, 2D LiDAR systems that identify objects and measures distances are observing a rise in the number of remote monitoring and surveillance applications. 2D LiDAR systems are finally making its mark in the ITS world.

Advanced technology to solve transportation problems like congestion while improving safety and efficiency is being used by ITS. Examples of ITS systems include traffic light systems and pedestrian crossing that detects approaching vehicles and pedestrians, free flow electronic toll collection systems that automatically charge the correct amount for vehicles passing through and digital signs that advise drivers of the quickest routes.

Today, many roads and cities are utilising some form of ITS technology. However, many of them are still a long way from the ideal smart city or highway. From a future perspective, ITS systems aim to automatically send information to cars about the best route to take, enabling them to safely and efficiently navigate with minimal interruptions. In cities, ITS systems will also improve mobility efficiency and safety for public transportation, pedestrians and bikes, resulting in better commutes and more livable cities. What forms an essential part of the ITS systems is vehicle detection and profiling. Vehicle detection provides accurate vehicle counts, classification, speed and occupancy without causing any disruption to the traffic.

The current generation of ITS, including automatic tolling systems, generally rely on in-ground sensors for vehicle detection and classification. Despite in-ground sensors being matured, they posses many drawbacks like they are subject to stress as traffic drive over them reducing sensor and road surface lifespan, their repair or replacement usually requires lane closures, resulting in traffic disruptions and most in-ground sensors only provide basic vehicle detection and counting information. In-ground sensors such as inductive loops may also be affected by water, snow or ice accumulations on the road surface. Most in-ground sensors struggle to profile and classify vehicles accurately.

LiDAR systems for intelligent transport systems
Just by using beams of laser light, LiDAR systems can detect and profile objects from a distance. Therefore, they need not be place in-ground; instead, they can be placed on traffic lights or buildings to detect and profile vehicles. Reliable LiDAR systems can, therefore, be used in intelligent transportation, traffic management, vehicle profiling, electronic tolling and speed enforcement.

However, ITS has been limited by their high operating costs and complexity until recently. Also, mechanical scanning LiDAR systems struggle to identify trailers or tailgating cars, black or shiny vehicles and vehicles traveling at a high speed. They can be also affected by bad weather conditions, which will eventually hamper its reliability.