Learning to Detect Roads in High-Resolution Aerial Images

Volodymyr Mnih and Geoffrey E. Hinton
Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto, 6 King’s College Rd., Toronto, Ontario, M5S 3G4, Canada
Computer Vision – ECCV 2010, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 2010, Volume 6316/2010, p.210-223


   title={Learning to Detect Roads in High-Resolution Aerial Images},

   author={Mnih, V. and Hinton, G.},

   journal={Computer Vision–ECCV 2010},





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Reliably extracting information from aerial imagery is a difficult problem with many practical applications. One specific case of this problem is the task of automatically detecting roads. This task is a difficult vision problem because of occlusions, shadows, and a wide variety of non-road objects. Despite 30 years of work on automatic road detection, no automatic or semi-automatic road detection system is currently on the market and no published method has been shown to work reliably on large datasets of urban imagery. We propose detecting roads using a neural network with millions of trainable weights which looks at a much larger context than was used in previous attempts at learning the task. The network is trained on massive amounts of data using a consumer GPU. We demonstrate that predictive performance can be substantially improved by initializing the feature detectors using recently developed unsupervised learning methods as well as by taking advantage of the local spatial coherence of the output labels. We show that our method works reliably on two challenging urban datasets that are an order of magnitude larger than what was used to evaluate previous approaches.
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