One crucial component of a control system for autonomous vehicle guidance is real time image analysis. This system part is burdened by the maximum flow of information. To overcome the high demands in computation power a combination of knowledge based scene analysis and special hardware has been developed. The use of knowledge based image analysis supports real time processing not by schematically evaluating all parts of the image, but only evaluating those which contain relevant information. This is due to the fact that in many practical problems the relevant information is very unevenly distributed over the image. Preknowledge of the problem or the aim of the mission and expectations or predictions about the scene sustantially reduce the amount of information to be processed. The operations during such an analysis may be divided into two classes - simple processes, e.g. filters, correlation, contour processing and simple search strategies - complex search and control strategy This classification supplied the concept for a special hardware. The complex tasks are performed by a universal processor 80286 while the remaining tasks are executed by a special coprocessor (including image memory). This combination permits the use of filter masks with a arbitrary geometry together with a powerful search strategy. A number of these basic modules may be configured into a multiprocessor system. The universal processor is programmed in a high level language. To support the coprocessor a set of software tools has been built. They permit interactive graphical manipulation of filtermasks, generation of simple search strategies and non real time simulation. Also the real data structures that control the function of the coprocessor are generated by this software package. The system is used within our autonomous vehicle project. One set of algorithms tracks the border lines of the road even if they are broken or disturbed by dirt. Also shadows of bridges crossing the road are tolerated. Another algorithm tracks prominent points on other objects (e.g. vehicles) to collect possible candidates of obstacles during the real time run. A complete image analysis for the relevant features is performed in one video cycle (16.6 ms).
"A Vision System for Real Time Road and Object Recognition for Vehicle Guidance", Proc. SPIE 0727, Mobile Robots I, (25 February 1987); doi: 10.1117/12.937806; https://doi.org/10.1117/12.937806