September 23, 2021

Belam and Cepton Establish Partnership to Enable Safety at High-traffic Railway Level Crossings

Partnership enables smart railway intersections using advanced lidar-based obstacle detection solutions


Cepton has teamed up with Lithuania-based system integrator Belam to improve road user and rail passenger safety by deploying lidar-enabled obstacle detection at railway level crossings. Following the installation of Cepton’s Helius® Smart Lidar System at a busy railway intersection in Europe, the lidar-based solution has monitored over 15,000 train passages with high accuracy to help ensure the safety of pedestrians and other road users. The system has also helped improve the efficiency of the train service and the traffic flow where it is deployed.

Cepton's lidar sensors are installed at the busy level crossing to monitor a complicated traffic scenario. Photo Credit: Belam

Belam is a full-service system integrator operating in the Baltics and Northern Europe. Utilizing cutting-edge technologies such as lidar, Belam delivers advanced solutions to transform smart cities by improving the safety and efficiency of transportation infrastructure and railway systems. Through its partnership with Cepton, Belam was able to deliver accurate obstacle detection at a busy rail intersection, with an automated system that minimized unnecessary stops. As a result, the traffic flow at the intersection has become more efficient.

Railway level crossings represent one of the most complex traffic scenarios given the variety of road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, cars and trucks, and the potential risk of collisions with trains. The high speed of passing trains can put road users at risk, thereby requiring accurate real-time monitoring of the traffic at the crossings, even in difficult weather conditions, to make sure that the tracks are free of obstacles when the train is about to approach. This has posed major challenges for some of the existing sensor technologies, such as camera and radar. Radars lack the resolution needed to accurately verify, locate and classify the obstacle. Cameras provide 2D imaging without readily-available information about object size, location and speed, and are susceptible to difficult lighting and weather conditions.

The system has delivered accurate results both in the nighttime and in adverse weather conditions. Photo Credit: Belam

To enable 24/7, accurate obstacle detection, Belam tested a few types of sensors, including lidars and microwave radars through their development process. During an extended testing campaign, Belam concluded that, compared to the other sensors tested, Cepton´s Helius Smart Lidar System provided the most reliable results in terms of eliminating false positives and false negatives. As lidars perform well at night and in various environmental conditions, the Vista®-P90 lidars deployed as part of the Helius system outperformed other technologies tested in generating high-resolution 3D imaging of vehicles, people and other objects, twenty-four hours a day. The ground-breaking Helius perception software processed the lidar data to accurately classify objects and track their speeds and locations in real time. Integrated together with other sensors, including CCTV cameras used for recording license plates during traffic violations, and meteorological sensors used to determine weather conditions, Cepton’s lidar solutions enabled a truly intelligent railway crossing by providing the key information needed to deliver comprehensive traffic analytics and trigger the appropriate responses to help save lives.

As a result, Belam’s system has achieved an accuracy of over 99.9% in obstacle detection. This level of accuracy has enabled the level crossing to achieve a higher safety rating, where passing trains are now allowed to pass at almost twice the speed as they used to. Following implementation of the automated system, stop signs, which were previously installed at this intersection to mandate a full stop for all vehicles before crossing, were removed. This has improved the traffic flow at the crossing and increased the operational efficiency of the train service.

Visualization of Belam’s obstacle detection system scanning area – dangerous zone on the level crossing. Photo Credit: Belam

Powered by Cepton’s patented MMT® (Micro Motion Technology), the Vista-P90 lidar offers a wide field of view coverage (90° horizontal x 40° vertical), along with high resolution and long range at an affordable price point. The sensor is rotation-free, frictionless and mirrorless, making it rugged and capable of continuous, outdoor applications, even in harsh weather conditions. With multi-lidar aggregation, edge computing and a low-bandwidth data output, the Helius Smart Lidar System is easy to integrate, scale up and maintain.

Belam and Cepton’s partnership opens up new applications for lidar-enabled smart cities. The smart rail crossings can extend into a complete V2X solution, where not only trains, but also cars can use the real-time traffic data at the intersections to avoid potential collisions and optimize travel routes. Road authorities could also benefit from traffic analytics based on the number of vehicles and road users and the directions in which they travel across the intersections to generate models and plans for traffic management.

“Cepton´s high-performance lidar solutions played a key role in helping us address the challenging traffic scenario of busy level crossings. Their lidar sensors particularly impressed us with accurate detection of different objects. The beneficial combination of Cepton’s field-tested sensors and advanced perception software provided reliable and accurate real-time analytics,” said Aleksandras Zidokas, Business Director at Belam.

“Our partnership with Cepton has helped us demonstrate the tremendous potential of lidar technology in smart transportation infrastructure. In addition to making railway intersections safer for road users, our lidar-enabled system also brought about marked improvement in the traffic flow. We look forward to deploying Cepton’s solutions at more locations, as a scaled up network of smart lidars could ultimately enable safer and more efficient transit systems, which will ultimately result in reduced carbon emissions and a greener city.”

Dr. Jun Pei, CEO of Cepton added: “Lidar enables a higher level of safety for everyone on the road, not just drivers, and we built our lidar solutions to achieve that goal. Our partnership with Belam enables the next-generation of rail and road safety applications and extends the capabilities of our high performance lidars and perception solutions into the rail market. We look forward to a deeper collaboration with Belam to make safer rail traffic a reality.”

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