Wuppertal’s traffic sign register has embarked on the road to the future: driving through the city area with laser scanners and cameras has gathered a multitude of street information and thus visualised panoramic street images. The result is a digital directory of geo-referenced road signs and thus the basis for future-oriented technologies in road traffic.

Straßenpanoramaaufnahmen für Verkehrsschildkataster der Zukunft

The basis of future-oriented mobility concepts

When it comes to the digital transformation in transport, most people probably first think of autonomous vehicles, connected passenger transport or the use of drones. However, an important basis for the development of such forward-looking mobility concepts is above all the digitalisation of road information. This is needed, for example, by vehicles to be able to act autonomously at all. For this reason, the city of Wuppertal, together with Remscheid, Solingen and the University of Wuppertal, is working within the framework of our sub-project “AI-based Traffic Management” on ways to provide precise geo-information on traffic-related issues in digital form for autonomous vehicles. A new development within the framework of this collaboration is now a digital traffic sign register for the Wuppertal city area.

The digital traffic sign register as a component of tomorrow’s traffic planning

Innovative mobility is already firmly anchored in the history of the Bergisch City Triangle through the suspension railway, trolleybuses & co. The three cities continue to live this innovative power from back then today and address topics such as e-mobility and autonomous vehicles as an important component for the urban planning of tomorrow. But before new mobility concepts can be put on the streets, the foundation should be right: Instead of a forest of signs, digitally available information on traffic signs now forms the basis for future-oriented traffic routing. This digital information was collected by vehicles driving along the streets of Wuppertal with special cameras and laser scanners. So-called street panorama images were stored, processed and digitally visualised. In a semi-automated process, data on traffic signs was then extracted from them. In this way, it was possible to create a digital traffic sign register for the Wuppertal Navigation and Data Management System (WuNDa), i.e. a directory of geo-referenced road signs in which all legally associated elements are also recorded. In addition to making information much faster to find, the map display thus also enables city employees to look at things in completely new ways, as it is now possible to group or filter types of signs, for example.

Kartenansicht Verkehrsschild aus WuNDa

Paving the way for autonomous driving

What may seem inconspicuous is the cornerstone for future-oriented technologies in road traffic, namely for autonomous driving. Due to the enormous amount of data that accumulates and has to be taken into account, an evaluation while driving is a very complex process for autonomous vehicles. In order to be able to make reliable decisions at short notice, supporting, detailed geoinformation, such as information on road signs, is helpful. Through it, it is possible to validate or supplement the vehicle’s data obtained from the sensors. In addition, the information from the digital sign register can be used to test the content and accuracy of the data from the autonomous vehicle. It can be determined whether the artificial intelligence used in the vehicle is capable of reliably recognising all road signs.

No more searching for parking space?

In the future, it is conceivable to create added value not only for autonomous vehicles, but also for all road users and users of routing systems. For example, the digital directory could provide reliable and unambiguous information at a glance about the parking situation in a certain area of the city, including time of day, time restrictions or residents’ rights.