This paper explores the viability of neural-network-based classification of ground surface for vehicles. By classifying road surface in near real-time, improvements in vehicle performance (e.g. braking and cornering) may be possible. Classification performance for many combinations of feature encoding and neural network types are compared. The vehicle used here was an Audi “S3” with a magnetic suspension system on the Sport mode. An NI CompactRIO (or cDAQ) module was used to record from a lowing the cDAQ to communicate with the PCB 352C03 one-axis accelerometer. The accelerometer was firmly attached to the windshield of the car. This work focuses on the classification of four road surfaces (asphalt, dirt, concrete, and sand), though larger target sets were also considered. The most accurate method involved a MATLAB feature extraction package with a back-propagation neural network, yielding an overall accuracy of 97%. Lessons learned from this wide exploration of options may extend to other related classification problems.

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