BEV-LGKD: A Unified LiDAR-Guided Knowledge Distillation Framework for BEV 3D Object Detection

Recently, Bird's-Eye-View (BEV) representation has gained increasing attention in multi-view 3D object detection, which has demonstrated promising applications in autonomous driving. Although multi-view camera systems can be deployed at low cost, the lack of depth information makes current approaches adopt large models for good performance. Therefore, it is essential to improve the efficiency of BEV 3D object detection. Knowledge Distillation (KD) is one of the most practical techniques to train efficient yet accurate models. However, BEV KD is still under-explored to the best of our knowledge. Different from image classification tasks, BEV 3D object detection approaches are more complicated and consist of several components. In this paper, we propose a unified framework named BEV-LGKD to transfer the knowledge in the teacher-student manner. However, directly applying the teacher-student paradigm to BEV features fails to achieve satisfying results due to heavy background information in RGB cameras. To solve this problem, we propose to leverage the localization advantage of LiDAR points. Specifically, we transform the LiDAR points to BEV space and generate the foreground mask and view-dependent mask for the teacher-student paradigm. It is to be noted that our method only uses LiDAR points to guide the KD between RGB models. As the quality of depth estimation is crucial for BEV perception, we further introduce depth distillation to our framework. Our unified framework is simple yet effective and achieves a significant performance boost. Code will be released.

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