Cepton Technologies and Vortex have combined their skills to transform UK buses into real-time road inspection tools. The solution is based on a Lidar-based vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) system for urban management, called CURBS. Cepton Technologies is a provider of smart Lidar solutions, while Vortex is a UK-based Internet of Things (IoT) solution company.
AI and machine learning meet Lidar technology
Vortex’s Lidar-powered Continuous Urban Scanner System (CURBS) uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning along with 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 on vehicles to create a real-time 3D scanning and dynamic monitoring system. Mounted on public transportation, such as bus fleets, garbage trucks, or mobile enforcement vehicles, the Lidar-embedded CURBS solution is capable of identifying areas in need of repair, enabling early identification of problems and mobilization of maintenance teams.
CURBS streams the processed information over 5G networks. Crucially, this information not only helps to provide real-time insight into services such as road maintenance, but also to make intelligent decisions with the aim of optimizing traffic management, such as enabling preventive measures in accident-prone areas and improving traffic efficiency. These expected improvements are intended to ultimately help reduce CO2 emissions while making cities safer and smarter.
5G supports innovative 3D maps
The solution is currently being tested in the West Midlands in a government-sponsored 5G program called ‘WM5G’. Vortex has partnered with National Express and BT for the project. “The mission of the WM5G Transport team is to support 5G innovation in the region to make transportation networks safer, more sustainable and more intuitive for users,” said David Conner, project manager at WM5G Transport. “By enabling powerful connectivity to transfer large amounts of Lidar and camera data, 5G supports the generation of 3D maps that are capable of providing the insights required to increase road safety and guide the development of smart cities. ”
Vortex has also planned further rollouts with traffic enforcement and smart city management company, Marston Holdings. “With vehicles becoming ever smarter, urban infrastructure also requires next-generation innovations to deliver matching intelligence. Smart city solutions like CURBS are poised to become commonplace across our cities,” said Adrian Sutton, co-founder and CEO of Vortex. “Public authorities need efficient, scalable ways of dealing with urban environments, and this becomes even more important as the focus on issues such as decarbonisation, sustainability and climate change grows. At the heart of this is digital transformation and the potential that connected technologies and data analytics present for real-time asset management. Increased use of big data will drive rapid urban planning and dynamic decision making. Here, perception is key and nothing can produce accurate 3D data in real urban environments like Lidar. ”
Mounted on public transport, CURBS uses Lidar to provide detailed 3D point cloud visualizations of each vehicle’s surroundings while driving. This enables asset and infrastructure management by identifying certain situations such as potholes, surface damage and roadside defects in real time. 5G wireless technology is used to transfer data to guidance teams. (Image courtesy of Vortex)
Lidar sensors for challenging circumstances
Cepton’s Lidar solutions combine high resolution and long range, while enabling the sensor’s robustness and reliability, and CURBS takes advantage of a number of benefits through its use of Cepton’s Vista-P60 sensors. First, the Lidar sensors operate with accuracy and resilience in a variety of weather and light conditions. In contrast, cameras need sufficient light to be effective and can be dazzled by bright light. Because cameras provide only two-dimensional imaging, typically without accurate size and location data, they need additional computing resources to process the image to extract useful information that can take up more bandwidth and lead to delay.
Second, Lidar data is completely anonymized, protecting citizens’ privacy and eliminating the need for additional data management and security protocols. Lidar does not collect any biometric data, making individual features unidentifiable from Lidar point cloud visualizations.
Finally, the Vista-P60 Lidars, powered by Ceptons Micro Motion Technology (MMT), is non-rotating, mirror-free and friction-free. This enables the sensor to deliver high performance while offering a low power and compact solution that helps reduce integration and maintenance costs. The scalability of Vista-P60 Lidars makes them ideal for V2I smart city applications such as CURBS.