Better Visibility with High-Grade Reflective Glass Beads Also Supports LiDAR Systems

In automated vehicles, premium reflective glass beads can support LiDAR systems in the detection of lane markings, as the first results of a test series conducted by SWARCO Road Marking Systems reveal.

Elon Musk might see this differently, but for many experts it’s clear that LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) is a key factor for automated and autonomous vehicles. This laser-based measuring method is already built into many vehicle models, enabling on-board systems to detect the environment surrounding the vehicle, and how this is constantly changing. For such systems, lane markings that are also detected by LiDAR sensors provide crucial orientation. How reliably they are detected depends on various factors, most definitely including the kind of drop-on glass beads used.

The LiDAR system on the test vehicle’s bonnet detects the different markings in the City Zone of the test track in St. Valentin, Austria.

Photo: Digitrans/SWARCO Road Marking Systems

Night has fallen on the Digitrans test center for automated driving in St. Valentin, Austria. Yet on the test track, a pair of light beams is moving along in what is referred to as the City Zone. A test vehicle is driving along a clearly defined route – it’s neither the first, nor the last time. This scenario also occurs at other times of the year in different light and weather conditions. Even during snowfall in winter, the test vehicle equipped with measuring instruments can be seen doing its laps. Why is that?
The answer is simple, yet complex: With this test series, the Center of Competence, SWARCO Road Marking Systems’ internationally connected R & D department, is researching how clearly LiDAR sensors are able to detect different markings in varying light and weather scenarios. The tests will deliver important findings, as LiDAR is a key technology for automated vehicles and driver assistance systems. The different LiDAR systems have one thing in common: They emit laser pulses and detect their reflections in the surrounding environment, such as from drop-on glass beads in road markings. In this way, the LiDAR system provides a highly precise mapping of the environment in real time and can detect other road users, obstacles and lane markings.

How well a particular lane marking is detected by the LiDAR system depends on the difference in intensity of the reflections from the lane itself and the drop-on glass beads in the marking. Here, the quality of the reflective drop-on glass beads plays a role. “We are assessing different line and area markings that were applied using the same cold-spray-plastic material, but different drop-on glass beads,” says Friedrich Wiesinger, Team Leader Product Development at SWARCO Road Marking Systems.

A Clear Trend

Wiesinger takes a look at the first analyses of the data collected. Upon review, it quickly becomes clear that the values for the markings with SWARCO SOLIDPLUS premium reflective glass beads always exceed those of the respective reference marking by 50 to 100 percent. This applies to all scenarios evaluated, be it in sunny conditions, light rain, snowfall, when the sun is low, at dusk or at night. “Series of measurements with camera-based systems have already demonstrated how crucial high-performance markings are for better detection by sensors of automated vehicles,” Wiesinger explains. “The new findings illustrate that SWARCO SOLIDPLUS also supports the detection of lane markings by LiDAR systems in a positive way. High-performance markings are and remain essential for road safety. By providing orientation to humans and machines, they are a key element also in automated driving.”
And this is just the first finding from this test series – together with the Cracow University of Technology in Poland, SWARCO Road Marking Systems is working on a scientific paper that will examine the interaction of lane markings and LiDAR more closely.

About SWARCO Road Marking Systems

Quality products and services from SWARCO Road Marking Systems guide traffic safely from A to B by day and, above all, by night. On all types of roads. Whatever the weather. From a single source. Over 5,000 customers in more than 80 countries place their trust in them.

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