FloraMon: How AI protects traffic infrastructure

Automated detection and control of vegetation on Austria's roads and railways is the goal of a project by the DIGITAL Institute, ASFINAG and ÖBB.

Representation of detected plants on a rail track.
Areas where plants have been detected are displayed in the form of a superimposed mask. Picture: JOANNEUM RESEARCH


As part of the FloraMon project, researchers from DIGITAL are working together with ASFINAG and ÖBB on automated detection and control of vegetation on Austria's roads and railways. The JOANNEUM RESEARCH team is contributing years of technological expertise in high-speed image acquisition, AI-based detection of plants and structures, and GIS processing.

This is important for more safety in traffic, for the protection of traffic infrastructure and the saving of plant protection products. Data collection has already begun. "The mobile recording system has been installed on ÖBB and ASFINAG vehicles. This system allows extremely detailed image capture of plants along roads and rails at very high driving speeds. This means that there are hardly any restrictions for normal traffic", explains Peter Schallauer, project manager at JOANNEUM RESEARCH.

Area-wide recording of vegetation 

Next year, the research team will develop a system that can record plant cover over a wide area and recognize relevant plant species. Plants that could potentially damage roads or structures or endanger the safety of road users will be recorded. In particular, neophytes are detected, i.e. plants whose spread is to be prevented in order to protect native species. This will happen at very high speed and with the help of artificial intelligence. "To do this, we will train specially developed neural networks with an extensive set of high-resolution plant examples. So it will be possible to recognize small plants and plants that are easily mixed up," Schallauer explains. Based on this information, ÖBB and ASFiNAG can efficiently plan and implement vegetation control measures adapted to the plants, which reduces infrastructure maintenance costs, ensures the safety of road users and, last but not least, protects the environment.

FloraMon is funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK), ÖBB Infrastruktur AG and ASFINAG  within the framework of the  FFG program Mobility of the Future thematic field Transport Infrastructure Research.