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Procudings of esP2000 Car License Plates Detection from Complex Scene Da-shan Gao Jie Zhou Department of Automation, Tsinghua University Beijing 100084, P.R.China Gaodsh@263.net zhowie“into.aw.tsinghua.edu.c Abstract: In this paper, we presenta novel approach to extract car license plate from complex image without reading attempt. After an algorithm of segmentation, a series of candidate regions are obtained first. Then a confidence value based on the ‘geometrical features of license plates is given to each candidate region and merge operation under some rules is taken, Experimental results show that the algorithm is robust in dealing with diferent conditions such as poor illumination and distortion of image generated by diferent visual angle 1. Introduction ‘Automatic recognition of car license plates plays an important role in traffic surveillance systems. Such systems, which are applied in parking areas, highways, bridges and tunnels, can help # human operator and improve the overall quality of service. Any situation requiting the automatic control of the presence and identification of a motor vehicle provided with @ license number may represent a potential application. Recently, we have seen quite a few computer-vision- based systems that recognize the license plates (1-9] Most existing systems focus on the development of a reliable optical character recognizer (OCR). However prior to the recognition an OCR system performs, the license plate has to be extracted from a variable of scenes. Since there are problems such as poor ambient lighting problem, visual angle, image distortion and so ‘on, sometimes the car license plate is difficult to be extracted. ‘Many techniques have been reported in previous researches. Hough Transform for line detection was proposed in (3] on the assumption that the shape of + 1409 license plate is defined by tines, Combining extraction of license plates sith character recognition by BP nut neworks was vsed in (4. [5,6] used nour networks (NN) with some features in ear license plate suchas color’ and soon. Vector Quantization rethodology end distributed genetic algorithm was used in [7] and [8], respectively. Although the algorithm proposed in [9] is robust for recognition of inolned license plates due to different visual angle, i depends on the high quality scquired by a special CED and ase of strict prior knowledge In this paper we proposed a novel method to extract car license” plates from a complex scene by considering both the distibutive regulation of the Sharecters in a license plate and the geometrical features of a license plate In our approach, we First present a. segmenting algorithm, looking’ for the andidate regions that probably contain characters in 8 proper size. Then we give each candidate region & Eonfidence value to measure its likelihood 19 be & license plate and combine these regions according 0 some rules to get a higher confidence value. Then the car license pate cen be found have highest valve 2. Car license plate detection 2.1. Outline of the algorithm In this algorithm we present a technique for the location and extraction of car license plates in complex scenes. As schematized in Figure 1 the algorithm works in four major steps: preprocessing, extraction of candidate regions, morphological processing, endowing confidence value and region merge. 2.2. Preprocessing, AAs the image that contains car license plates are acquired in a real environment under uncontrolled illumination, it often shows thick shade and low ‘contrast. In order to reduce the undesired effects and enhance the contrast, histogram equalization for contrast enhancement can be used when necessary. Histogram Equalization is a technique in image processing, through which we desire to take a given input image into an output image with equally many pixels at every gray level (e flat histogram) [11]. In practice, we set a threshold observed in a set of images and equalize the image whose accumulative histogram is below this threshold. ARer histogram ‘equalization a contrast enhancement is applied by a sigmoid transform function, c a= Ke I+exp(-a*(x-d)) o whee 6, dando are constant which determine the ‘animuia vale, enter and shape ofthe function 2.3. Extraction of candidate regions Considering the characters in a car license plate always have a distinctive gray level to the background of the license plate, which isto say that a car license plate have a relative high contrast, we can get the following features of a license plate in its gradient image. Firstly, the average gradient value of the region that contains @ license plate is high because of the intense variations in i, as is mentioned in [1]. The size of the window where the local average gradient value is calculated can be set to correspond to the size of license plates in the majority of images acquired through a CCD camera Secondly, the variance of the gradient image of a license plate region is relative low because there are a number of edges of characters in it. So the variance is. cealeulated in a window of certain size to distinguish a license plate region from a long edge with only high contrast. Dividing the average gradient value by the local variance of gradient image at each pixel, we perform a binary method successively and get some candidate regions, which probably contain a car license, 2.4, Morphological Processing After the image are segmented by thresholding, there may be some noise in the image such as isolated dots, long vertical or horizontal stripes and so on. So ‘an opening operation of morphological processing [11], ia which a Dilation operation is performed after ‘an erosion operation, is applied in order to reduce the undesired effect of noise, smooth the edges of the ‘candidate regions and to separate the regions which should be separated 2.5. Geometrical Criteria and Confidence Value To detect a license plate from a complex scene is a kind of simplified detection ofa text line in an image in a sense [10]. It is easier because of the fixed geometrical structure of license plates, which appears in almost the same shape of rectangle and contains characters withthe same number. So we specify some eometrical criteria and confidence functions, the Value of which is from 0 to 1, based on the internal features of a license plate to depict the likelihood between a candidate region and a license plate region. In the following, we discuss these intemal features respectively, ‘Area, The arca of a region is defined as the number of its pixels, As a recognizable license plate it must contain quite a few pixels. So the larger the area of a region is, the higher the confidence value will be. Elongation. A license plate can be regard as a horizontal rectangle with particular ratio of width and height. Even though sometimes it is distorted in a image from different visual angle, it still can be bounded by a skew rectangle with approximate ration of width and height. With this prior knowledge, we find the two axis of a region through K-L tranaform ‘and make a minimum rectangle to bind the region, The elongetion feature is defined as the ratio of width and height of the rectangle. The more approximate 10 the ratio of areal license plate region the elongation is, the higher a confident value will be given. Density. It is defined as the ratio between the region area and the area of bounding rectangle discussed above. In general, a license plate region is fully filled. So the index permit to detect sparsely filled regions, which is given a low confidence value. Proximity to the image frame (PIF). The proximity index is defined as the distance between the pixels of the region and the image frame, normalized with respect to the corresponding image size. In many cases of application in traffic control system, a car is the focus in a image or almost is. So a license plate can be found in relative center region of an image. This feature is introduced to identify such noisy regions that often appear along the border of the image. 110 + Gross Confidence Value. The gross confidence value is defined asthe sum ofthe confidence vale of ‘each feature with weighting factor, i.e. Hko)=SAy6, fre Elongation Dens, PIF) where gis confidence value of feature i i the ‘weighting coefficient 26. Merge Rules. In our slgrithm of extracting candidate regions, car license plate is probably separated ino several fdjacen regions, which are wnlke the license pate according to geometical criteria respectively and ‘ust have low confidence values. In order make the license region have the highest confidence value, a merge operation is performed to incorporte these Separated regions together. The merge operation must conform tothe rules es follows: Suppose rland 72 are two regions and p(*) is the gross confidence value of a region, rl and r2 can be incorporated aio one repion, 7, if the following rls i satisfied I) rl and 12 is close to each other, ie. the distance between rand 72 is bounded in a ‘erain range, aymax p(r),p(°2)) $ p(%) S15 ‘We applied such merging operation repeatedly until there are no regions can be merged. Then the candidate repions are sorted by the gross confidence value. The first region, which has the largest confident value, is regard as the license plate region. Figure.2_ Shows the images derived from each procedures of our detection algorithm, 3. Some experimental results We apply the above algorithm to our database of car license plates, all of which are real scene images acquired by CCD cameras. They contain cats in different conditions, such as differen illumination and different visual angle. Figure3 shows some test images in our experiment. Table.1 shows the result of our experiment. From it ‘we can see that, in most cases the car license plates can de detected effectively. Our algorithm Tailed in 16% cases. The failures ‘were caused mainly by 3 reasons. First, the sizeof the license plate is beyond the maximum size hypothesized. Secondly, a well-proportioned illumination in the whole image but in the license region there is a dark shade. So in this case Histogram [Equalization can be useless. The last reason is that there are some signboards with the same geometrical features with license plate In summary, the algorithm can be applied in a certain range of the size of license plate which is according 10 the concrete situations, In different situations, we can adjust the size of window to ‘coincide with it The time spent to run the algorithm depends on the size of windows and the size of the image processed, [In the experiment we applied it on the PC with CPU PII 450 under window size 11*23, the time spent in this algorithm is less than 2 seconds at image size 300°300. ‘Toblet Result ofthe license pate extraction algoritim, applied on a cat database The size ofthe window in Seution 23 11°23, Total Det 4. Conclusions In this paper, a novel algorithm of extracting car Ticense plate in a complex image is proposed Considering the distribution of characters in a license plate and the geometrical features of a license plate comprehensively, we apply a set of confidence values to candidate regions and combine them under some rules. The algorithm only prior knowledge of the range of license size, s0 iti robust to the deterioration of the image such as blur. The algorithm is also robust to detect the distorted license plate derived from different visual angles because we applied a skew rectangle generated by @ K-L transform to bind the license region. The algorithm ean detect different size of license to some extent and offers robustness in dealing with distorted license plate. References: [1]. P.Comelli, P-Ferragina, M.N.Granicri, and F. Stabile, “Optical recognition of motor vehicle license plates”, IBEE Transactions on vehicular technology, vol 44(4), 790-799, Nov 1995 = tat