Government sponsors real-time lidar surveying tools

12/10/2021
Dominic Browne

A UK Government-sponsored trial is looking into the use of lidar scanners attached to public transport to 'turn UK buses into real-time road inspection tools'.

UK-based IoT solutions company Vortex IoT has combined with Cepton Technologies to enable a lidar-based vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) solution for urban asset management.

A pilot for the solution is currently underway in the West Midlands in a UK Government-sponsored 5G program called 'WM5G', where Vortex has partnered with National Express and BT.

Vortex’s award-winning lidar-powered Continuous Urban Scanner System (CURBS) identifies issues such as potholes, surface damage and roadside defects in real time, using 5G wireless technology to transmit the data to road management teams.

The solution uses artificial intelligence and machine learning alongside Cepton’s Vista-P60 high-resolution lidar sensors to create a detailed map of the urban environment.

This is done by retrofitting the CURBS product to vehicles to create a real-time 3D scanning and dynamic monitoring system.

CURBS streams the processed information over 5G networks, providing real-time insights to services such as road maintenance, as well as helping optimizing traffic management.

'The mission of the WM5G Transport team is to support 5G innovation within the region to make transport networks safer, more sustainable and more intuitive to users,' said David Conner, project manager at WM5G Transport.

'The CURBS project is a great example of how the West Midlands is leading the way nationally in making our cities smarter and better connected. By enabling powerful connectivity to transfer large amounts of lidar and camera data, 5G supports the generation of 3D maps capable of providing the insights required to enhance road safety and guide the development of smart cities.'

Vortex also has additional deployments scheduled with traffic enforcement and smart city management company, Marston Holdings.

Adrian Sutton, co-founder and CEO at Vortex, said: 'With vehicles becoming increasingly smarter, city infrastructure also demands next-generation innovations to deliver matching intelligence. Smart city solutions like CURBS are set to become commonplace across our towns and cities.

'At the heart of this is digital transformation and the potential that connected technologies and data analytics present for asset management in real time.

'Nothing can produce accurate 3D data in real-life urban environments quite like lidar – especially the state-of-the-art lidar solutions developed by Cepton, which combine high resolution and long range while enabling sensor robustness and reliability, making their sensors ideally suited for these types of applications.'

Lidar performs with accuracy and resilience in a variety of weather and lighting conditions, Cepton argued while 'in contrast, cameras need sufficient light to be effective and can be blinded by strong light'.

On top of this, cameras provide only two-dimensional imaging typically with no accurate size and location data so they need additional computing resource to process the image to extract useful information, which might take up more bandwidth and lead to lag.

Dr Jun Pei, CEO at Cepton, said: 'Advanced sensor technologies have played an increasingly important role in the development of safe, accurate and intelligent transportation systems. Using our MMT-based lidar solutions, we are pleased to partner with Vortex to enable CURBS to achieve its mission of helping towns and cities across the world become safer, greener and more efficient for all.' 

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