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LiDAR Car Detection System Using FPGA platform

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) is used to collect the information on the road and pass that to the system for decision making. It is now used in autonomous vehicles. For example, LIDAR can detect objects around the vehicle so that it can either slowdown in time automatically or speed up to avoid an accident. Students from AGH University of Science and Technology create a car detection system using LiDAR sensors and FPGA. The system classifies cars based on the data collected by LiDAR sensors.

LiDAR principle of operation is simple. These sensors, through a special optical system, emits the compound of the laser light with a specific wavelength and in a specific direction. Reflected from an obstacle, the beam is picked up by detectors located in the same device. Based on the time between sending the light and receiving it, the distance to the obstacle is calculated.

Usually, processing data from sensors is often computationally complex and it’s done only on powerful processors, but this project demonstrates that image & data processing can be done on heterogeneous platforms (FPGA + ARM) as efficiently as the processors. The hardware platform used is the Digilent Zybo Z7: Zynq-7000, a feature-rich, ready-to-use embedded software and digital circuit development board built around the Xilinx Zynq-7000 family. The Zynq family is based on the Xilinx All Programmable System-on-Chip (AP SoC) architecture, which tightly integrates a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor with Xilinx 7-series Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) logic.

One of the most important elements in this system is data acquisition from LiDAR sensor and camera, connected to the Zybo Z7 FPGA board (164-3487) or (164-3486) . In order to detect 3D objects, LiDAR makes use of point cloud data processing. Point cloud processing can be divided into several stages. The first stage is preprocessing, which includes ground removal, filtration, and background removal. The next stage is segmentation, which aims to divide the remaining point cloud into segments that contain potential objects. In the end, for each segment, features are extracted and classification is performed.


In the vision part of the system, the first step is to project segments evaluated by LiDAR data processing to the image plane and select the corresponding ROI. The ROI is extracted and scaled. The final step is feature extraction and classification (e.g. using HOG+SVM). The last part of the algorithm is data fusion. The classification score from both systems will be fused to obtain the final object detection probability. This approach was tested in the MATLAB environment and in the Vivado simulation.

LiDAR measurement

The figure below represents the entire project design and feature design implementation. The numbers near the lines represent signals from the LiDAR data cells. The signals go through each step of the processing flow and get analyzed. This process indicates if a cell was or wasn’t removed during Point cloud preprocessing and it’s flagged valid or not. A pack of signals is transformed into a segment and then classified. Lastly, the segment is transformed into a bounding box, marked as an object, validated by the system, and shown on the monitor.


Today, creating a car detection system can be achieved using heterogeneous platforms too, as seen in this project. Using a LiDAR camera and sensors, connected to the Zybo Z7: Zynq-7000, people can start developing projects that can integrate with Adaptive Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) at a low cost.

Love learn engineering in hands-on approach. Interested in new technology. Work in Digilent as International Sales and Distribution Manager.
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