Google Research

Traffic Light Mapping and Detection

  • Nathaniel Fairfield
  • Chris Urmson
Proceedings of ICRA 2011


The outdoor perception problem is a major challenge for driver-assistance and autonomous vehicle systems. While these systems can often employ active sensors such as sonar, radar, and lidar to perceive their surroundings, the state of standard traffic lights can only be perceived visually. By using a prior map, a perception system can anticipate and predict the locations of traffic lights and improve detection of the light state. The prior map also encodes the control semantics of the individual lights. This paper presents methods for automatically mapping the three dimensional positions of traffic lights and robustly detecting traffic light state onboard cars with cameras. We have used these methods to map more than four thousand traffic lights, and to perform onboard traffic light detection for thousands of drives through intersections.

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