Unthule: An Incremental Graph Construction Process for Robust Road Map Extraction from Aerial Images

by   Favyen Bastani, et al.

The availability of highly accurate maps has become crucial due to the increasing importance of location-based mobile applications as well as autonomous vehicles. However, mapping roads is currently an expensive and human-intensive process. High-resolution aerial imagery provides a promising avenue to automatically infer a road network. Prior work uses convolutional neural networks (CNNs) to detect which pixels belong to a road (segmentation), and then uses complex post-processing heuristics to infer graph connectivity. We show that these segmentation methods have high error rates (poor precision) because noisy CNN outputs are difficult to correct. We propose a novel approach, Unthule, to construct highly accurate road maps from aerial images. In contrast to prior work, Unthule uses an incremental search process guided by a CNN-based decision function to derive the road network graph directly from the output of the CNN. We train the CNN to output the direction of roads traversing a supplied point in the aerial imagery, and then use this CNN to incrementally construct the graph. We compare our approach with a segmentation method on fifteen cities, and find that Unthule has a 45 lower error rate in identifying junctions across these cities.


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