Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Xinming Huang, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Jie Fu, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Lifeng Lai, Committee Member




Intelligent vehicle technologies are growing rapidly that can enhance road safety, improve transport efficiency, and aid driver operations through sensors and intelligence. Advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) is a common platform of intelligent vehicle technologies. Many sensors like LiDAR, radar, cameras have been deployed on intelligent vehicles. Among these sensors, optical cameras are most widely used due to their low costs and easy installation. However, most computer vision algorithms are complicated and computationally slow, making them difficult to be deployed on power constraint systems. This dissertation investigates several mainstream ADAS applications, and proposes corresponding efficient digital circuits implementations for these applications. This dissertation presents three ways of software / hardware algorithm division for three ADAS applications: lane detection, traffic sign classification, and traffic light detection. Using FPGA to offload critical parts of the algorithm, the entire computer vision system is able to run in real time while maintaining a low power consumption and a high detection rate. Catching up with the advent of deep learning in the field of computer vision, we also present two deep learning based hardware implementations on application specific integrated circuits (ASIC) to achieve even lower power consumption and higher accuracy.

The real time lane detection system is implemented on Xilinx Zynq platform, which has a dual core ARM processor and FPGA fabric. The Xilinx Zynq platform integrates the software programmability of an ARM processor with the hardware programmability of an FPGA. For the lane detection task, the FPGA handles the majority of the task: region-of-interest extraction, edge detection, image binarization, and hough transform. After then, the ARM processor takes in hough transform results and highlights lanes using the hough peaks algorithm. The entire system is able to process 1080P video stream at a constant speed of 69.4 frames per second, realizing real time capability.

An efficient system-on-chip (SOC) design which classifies up to 48 traffic signs in real time is presented in this dissertation. The traditional histogram of oriented gradients (HoG) and support vector machine (SVM) are proven to be very effective on traffic sign classification with an average accuracy rate of 93.77%. For traffic sign classification, the biggest challenge comes from the low execution efficiency of the HoG on embedded processors. By dividing the HoG algorithm into three fully pipelined stages, as well as leveraging extra on-chip memory to store intermediate results, we successfully achieved a throughput of 115.7 frames per second at 1080P resolution. The proposed generic HoG hardware implementation could also be used as an individual IP core by other computer vision systems.

A real time traffic signal detection system is implemented to present an efficient hardware implementation of the traditional grass-fire blob detection. The traditional grass-fire blob detection method iterates the input image multiple times to calculate connected blobs. In digital circuits, five extra on-chip block memories are utilized to save intermediate results. By using additional memories, all connected blob information could be obtained through one-pass image traverse. The proposed hardware friendly blob detection can run at 72.4 frames per second with 1080P video input. Applying HoG + SVM as feature extractor and classifier, 92.11% recall rate and 99.29% precision rate are obtained on red lights, and 94.44% recall rate and 98.27% precision rate on green lights.

Nowadays, convolutional neural network (CNN) is revolutionizing computer vision due to learnable layer by layer feature extraction. However, when coming into inference, CNNs are usually slow to train and slow to execute. In this dissertation, we studied the implementation of principal component analysis based network (PCANet), which strikes a balance between algorithm robustness and computational complexity. Compared to a regular CNN, the PCANet only needs one iteration training, and typically at most has a few tens convolutions on a single layer. Compared to hand-crafted features extraction methods, the PCANet algorithm well reflects the variance in the training dataset and can better adapt to difficult conditions. The PCANet algorithm achieves accuracy rates of 96.8% and 93.1% on road marking detection and traffic light detection, respectively. Implementing in Synopsys 32nm process technology, the proposed chip can classify 724,743 32-by-32 image candidates in one second, with only 0.5 watt power consumption.

In this dissertation, binary neural network (BNN) is adopted as a potential detector for intelligent vehicles. The BNN constrains all activations and weights to be +1 or -1. Compared to a CNN with the same network configuration, the BNN achieves 50 times better resource usage with only 1% - 2% accuracy loss. Taking car detection and pedestrian detection as examples, the BNN achieves an average accuracy rate of over 95%. Furthermore, a BNN accelerator implemented in Synopsys 32nm process technology is presented in our work. The elastic architecture of the BNN accelerator makes it able to process any number of convolutional layers with high throughput. The BNN accelerator only consumes 0.6 watt and doesn't rely on external memory for storage.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Electrical & Computer Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





FPGA, computer vision, deep learning, ASIC