PolarNet: An Improved Grid Representation for Online LiDAR Point Clouds Semantic Segmentation

CVPR 2020

Authors: Yang Zhang, Zixiang Zhou, Philip David, Xiangyu Yue, Zerong Xi, Boqing Gong, Hassan Foroosh Description: The requirement of fine-grained perception by autonomous driving systems has resulted in recently increased research in the online semantic segmentation of single-scan LiDAR. Emerging datasets and technological advancements have enabled researchers to benchmark this problem and improve the applicable semantic segmentation algorithms. Still, online semantic segmentation of LiDAR scans in autonomous driving applications remains challenging due to three reasons: (1) the need for near-real-time latency with limited hardware, (2) points are distributed unevenly across space, and (3) an increasing number of more fine-grained semantic classes. The combination of the aforementioned challenges motivates us to propose a new LiDAR-specific, KNN-free segmentation algorithm - PolarNet. Instead of using common spherical or bird's-eye-view projection, our polar bird's-eye-view representation balances the points per grid and thus indirectly redistributes the network's attention over the long-tailed points distribution over the radial axis in polar coordination. We find that our encoding scheme greatly increases the mIoU in three drastically different real urban LiDAR single-scan segmentation datasets while retaining ultra low latency and near real-time throughput.