Man vs. computer: benchmarking machine learning algorithms for traffic sign recognition

Neural Netw. 2012 Aug;32:323-32. doi: 10.1016/j.neunet.2012.02.016. Epub 2012 Feb 20.


Traffic signs are characterized by a wide variability in their visual appearance in real-world environments. For example, changes of illumination, varying weather conditions and partial occlusions impact the perception of road signs. In practice, a large number of different sign classes needs to be recognized with very high accuracy. Traffic signs have been designed to be easily readable for humans, who perform very well at this task. For computer systems, however, classifying traffic signs still seems to pose a challenging pattern recognition problem. Both image processing and machine learning algorithms are continuously refined to improve on this task. But little systematic comparison of such systems exist. What is the status quo? Do today's algorithms reach human performance? For assessing the performance of state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms, we present a publicly available traffic sign dataset with more than 50,000 images of German road signs in 43 classes. The data was considered in the second stage of the German Traffic Sign Recognition Benchmark held at IJCNN 2011. The results of this competition are reported and the best-performing algorithms are briefly described. Convolutional neural networks (CNNs) showed particularly high classification accuracies in the competition. We measured the performance of human subjects on the same data-and the CNNs outperformed the human test persons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Artifacts
  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Benchmarking / methods*
  • Computer Graphics
  • Computers*
  • Data Collection
  • Databases, Factual
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated / methods*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Trees / classification