Real-time 3D semantic occupancy prediction for autonomous vehicles using memory-efficient sparse convolution

13 Mar 2024  ·  Samuel Sze, Lars Kunze ·

In autonomous vehicles, understanding the surrounding 3D environment of the ego vehicle in real-time is essential. A compact way to represent scenes while encoding geometric distances and semantic object information is via 3D semantic occupancy maps. State of the art 3D mapping methods leverage transformers with cross-attention mechanisms to elevate 2D vision-centric camera features into the 3D domain. However, these methods encounter significant challenges in real-time applications due to their high computational demands during inference. This limitation is particularly problematic in autonomous vehicles, where GPU resources must be shared with other tasks such as localization and planning. In this paper, we introduce an approach that extracts features from front-view 2D camera images and LiDAR scans, then employs a sparse convolution network (Minkowski Engine), for 3D semantic occupancy prediction. Given that outdoor scenes in autonomous driving scenarios are inherently sparse, the utilization of sparse convolution is particularly apt. By jointly solving the problems of 3D scene completion of sparse scenes and 3D semantic segmentation, we provide a more efficient learning framework suitable for real-time applications in autonomous vehicles. We also demonstrate competitive accuracy on the nuScenes dataset.

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