Laser-Based Obstacle Detection at Railway Level Crossings

Vitor Amaral, Francisco Marques, Jose Barata, Pedro Santana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a system for obstacle detection in railway level crossings from 3D point clouds acquired with tilting 2D laser scanners. Although large obstacles in railway level crossings are detectable with current solutions, the detection of small obstacles remains an open problem. By relying on a tilting laser scanner, the proposed system is able to acquire highly dense and accurate point clouds, enabling the detection of small obstacles, like rocks laying near the rail. During an offline training phase, the system learns a background model of the level crossing from a set of point clouds. Then, online, obstacles are detected as occupied space contrasting with the background model. To reduce the need for manual on-site calibration, the system automatically estimates the pose of the level crossing and railway with respect to the laser scanner. Experimental results show the ability of the system to successfully perform on a set of 41 point clouds acquired in an operational one-lane level crossing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1719230
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of sensors
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Laser applications
  • Obstacle detectors
  • Railroads
  • 3D point cloud
  • Railway level crossing


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