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Data Annotation for Autonomous Driving: How Labeled Data Helps Cars Drive Itself?

Snoozing or gaming while your car drives itself - that could be our reality soon!

The journey towards autonomous vehicles and Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) wasn't a sudden leap. It began with initial self-driving experiments in the 1920s and saw a significant boost with the advent of modern computer technology in the late 20th century. A defining point was Google's self-driving car project in 2009, which ignited a wave of initiatives by tech and automotive giants.

Data annotation for autonomous driving and ADAS

Today, major players like Tesla, Waymo, GM Cruise, Uber, and Ford are pouring billions into autonomous vehicle research. The global autonomous vehicle market size is projected to reach USD 556.67 billion by 2026, whereas ADAS, a stepping stone towards full autonomy, is expected to reach USD 70.4 billion by 2024. As vehicles increasingly come equipped with sensor suites for ADAS capabilities, autonomous driving edges closer.

Autonomous vehicles run on AI models, and these models need training data, whose key ingredient is data annotation. In this article, we'll explore data annotation for autonomous driving and guide you on obtaining the essential training datasets for your models.

Autonomous Driving vs. ADAS

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) categorizes driving automation into six levels, from complete human control (Level 0) to full autonomy with no human oversight needed (Level 5). Most commercially available autonomous cars still operate at Level 2 or 3, requiring vigilant human monitoring.

The SAE AV classification system is broken down by level of automation. Source: Autonomous Vehicles Factsheet. Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan
The SAE AV classification system is broken down by level of automation. Source: Autonomous Vehicles Factsheet. Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan

Autonomous driving and ADAS might have similar goals - enhancing vehicular safety and convenience - but they serve different purposes and operate at varying levels of sophistication.

Autonomous driving aims for full door-to-door travel without human intervention, using 360-degree sensing and AI to navigate any scenario. This corresponds to Level 4 and Level 5 automation as defined by SAE International.

In contrast, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) provide partial driving automation to aid human drivers, but the goal isn't to fully replace them. Systems like Tesla Autopilot or GM SuperCruise still necessitate constant human supervision. ADAS operates at Levels 1-3 automation, offering enhancements but still requiring driver oversight.

Data Annotation for Autonomous Driving Model Training

Self- driving cars depend heavily on deep neural networks trained using massive labeled datasets. Careful data annotation is crucial for developing robust autonomous systems.

From Raw Sensors Data to Meaningful Insights

Autonomous vehicles employ an array of sensors, including cameras, LiDAR, radar, and ultrasonic sensors. These sensors continuously capture raw data about the vehicle's surroundings, which are then processed and interpreted by AI models to form a comprehensive understanding of the environment and make informed navigational decisions.

Autonomous Vehicle Technologies. Source: Anderson, James M., et al. Autonomous vehicle technology: A guide for policymakers. Rand Corporation, 2014.
Autonomous Vehicle Technologies. Source: Anderson, James M., et al. Autonomous vehicle technology: A guide for policymakers. Rand Corporation, 2014.

Modern autonomous vehicles are outfitted with over 15-20 external sensors continuously capturing data to perceive the environment. This includes cameras, LiDARs, radars, ultrasonics and more.

Each of Waymo's vehicles records 1.2 GB of sensor data every second. The firehose of lower-level sensor outputs, however, has no inherent meaning on its own. The neural networks must be trained to understand semantic concepts like lanes, signs, pedestrians, cars, and this requires enormous datasets with each sensor reading manually labeled by humans to generate the structured ground truth needed for training. Data annotation provides the critical ingredient that unlocks perception from vast sensor feeds.

Why Data Annotation Is Crucial for Training Models?

Data annotation is the process of labeling or tagging the raw data, providing context and meaning to the otherwise non-descriptive information. This process is fundamental to machine learning as it allows AI models to learn from the data, thereby increasing their prediction accuracy and decision-making capabilities over time.

Manually Annotated Datasets for Model Training

Manual data annotation creates the labeled datasets essential for developing and validating autonomous systems. Without clean, massive training data, even the most advanced machine learning approaches will fail.

Several reasons underscore the absolute necessity of data annotation:

  • Provides semantic labels and structure for raw camera, LiDAR, radar streams

  • Enables supervised training and validation of neural networks

  • Improves model accuracy and generalization with greater labeled data variety

  • Allows testing AV systems on real human-verified ground truth data

The reliability of self-driving vehicles fundamentally depends on access to huge volumes of annotated real-world driving data.

Specialized Annotation Techniques for Diverse Autonomous Driving Sensor Streams

The diverse sensor setup in autonomous vehicles yields various types of data, each demanding distinct annotation techniques for effective model training.

Cameras installed in autonomous cars capture vast amounts of visual data. These images or videos are annotated with bounding boxes, lines, polygons, or semantic masks to identify and classify objects like vehicles, pedestrians, or traffic signs. This process is vital for object detection tasks that help vehicles navigate safely. LiDAR sensors generate high-resolution 3D point cloud data, which, when fused with other sensor data like radar and camera, provides a comprehensive and precise 3D representation of the surroundings. This data is annotated to distinguish different objects and their relative distances from the vehicle, essential for tasks like obstacle detection and avoidance.

LiDAR Point Cloud Data

Audio data, often overlooked, plays an essential role in enhancing the user experience in autonomous vehicles. In-car audio data is transcribed and annotated to train AI models that understand and respond to verbal commands, contributing to a hands-free and interactive driving experience.

These multi-modal sensor streams provide comprehensive environmental perception, but only with proper human annotation to enable training robust machine learning models.

How Data Annotation Helps Smart Vehicles?

Autonomous vehicles rely heavily on deep neural networks trained using massive labeled datasets. High-quality data annotation is crucial for developing accurate AI models for self-driving capabilities.

Navigating the Road with Autonomous Systems

Safe and efficient navigation is fundamental for autonomous vehicles. To achieve this, an autonomous vehicle needs a deep understanding of its environment, and data annotation is key in facilitating this understanding.

Use Case: Navigating the Road with Autonomous Systems

Multi-frame sensor data from sensors and cameras, LiDAR, radar, and other sensors are annotated and combined to train robust sensory fusion algorithms. These algorithms enable the driving vehicle to construct a comprehensive 3D cuboids representation of its surroundings, accurately perceive the full 360-degree driving environment in all weather and lighting conditions, and make real time decisions.

Moreover, through data annotation, accurate semantic segmentation of the road surface, lane markings, curbs, and sidewalks is possible. This allows self-driving vehicles to reason about navigable paths and stay within its lane and follow the right route.

Analyzing Driving Scene

ADAS systems enhance driver safety by analyzing the driving scene and alerting the driver about potential hazards. Data annotation plays a central role in enabling these systems to function effectively.

Bounding boxes for pedestrians, cyclists, animals on the roadway, and other potential hazards are annotated in the sensor data. These labeled images are used to train ADAS algorithms to quickly detect these imminent hazards.

Use Case: Analyzing Driving Scene

Additionally, lane markings, road edges, and vehicle localizations are annotated to enable lane departure and blind spot warnings. These systems alert the driver if the vehicle is unintentionally drifting out of its lane or if a vehicle is in the blind spot while changing lanes.

Recognizing Road Signs and Traffic Lights

For an autonomous vehicle to adhere to traffic rules and regulations, it must instantly detect and recognize road signs and traffic lights. Annotated images of various traffic signs and lights form the training data for AI models that enable this capability.

Use Case: Recognizing Road Signs and Traffic Lights

These models, trained on high-quality annotated data, can accurately recognize stop signs, speed limit signs, yield signs, traffic lights, and other important traffic signals. This allows the autonomous vehicle to make informed decisions such as stopping at a red light or adjusting its speed according to the speed limit.

Monitoring Driver Focus

Even as we progress towards full autonomy, situations still exist where human oversight is necessary. In these cases, it's important to guarantee that the driver is attentive.

Use Case: Monitoring Driver Focus

Computer vision models can track driver eye motions and blinking patterns in camera images to detect fatigue and drowsiness. Annotated images of alert and drowsy drivers' faces are used to train these models, enabling them to accurately detect signs of driver fatigue and trigger alerts when the driver's focus seems to waver.

Predicting Accidents

One of the key advantages of autonomous vehicles is their ability to predict potential hazards and take preventive measures. This predictive capability is largely powered by AI models trained on a wealth of annotated sensor data.

Use Case: Predicting Accidents

These models can analyze the vehicle's surroundings, track nearby vehicles, pedestrians, and other objects, and predict their future movements. If a potential collision is detected, the vehicle can take immediate action, such as slowing down or changing lanes, to avoid the accident. This can significantly enhance road safety and prevent accidents.

Verifying Driver Identity

With the rise of shared mobility and autonomous ride-hailing services, driver identity verification is increasingly important. By using annotated facial recognition data, autonomous vehicles can implement driver identity verification systems.

Use Case: Verifying Driver Identity

These systems can recognize the authorized driver or passenger, prevent unauthorized access, and provide personalized settings based on the identified user, enhancing both security and user experience.

In conclusion, data annotation is instrumental in enhancing the capabilities of smart vehicles. From enabling fundamental functionalities like autonomous navigation to advanced features like accident prediction and driver identity verification, data annotation plays an integral role in shaping the future of autonomous vehicles.

Obtaining the Right Training Datasets for Autonomous Driving

Sourcing the right datasets for training autonomous driving models can be a daunting task. However, there are several resources available to aid this process.

Open-source Autonomous Driving Datasets

Real-world datasets are the backbone of training effective autonomous driving models. Several organizations have open-sourced their autonomous driving datasets, providing a wealth of data for researchers and developers. Here, we'll dive deeper into some of these resources:

KITTI - Created by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and Toyota Technological Institute in Chicago, the KITTI dataset contains over 15,000 annotated frames captured while driving around Karlsruhe, Germany. It includes stereo camera images, LiDAR scans, GPS/IMU data and object bounding boxes. KITTI can be downloaded from

BDD100K Dataset - Developed by UC Berkeley, BDD100K contains over 100,000 diverse driving images with annotations. BasicAI performed over one million high-quality annotations on the images, captured across varying environments and conditions in the US. BDD100K is freely available and enables ML engineers to train models for self-driving perception tasks.

Cityscapes - This dataset from MMCV at TU Darmstadt contains 5,000 finely annotated images and videos of street scenes recorded across 50 cities primarily in Germany. The high quality pixel-level annotations enable training semantic segmentation models. Cityscapes is available at

Waymo Open Dataset - Released in 2019, this large dataset contains sensor data from Waymo's autonomous vehicles including LiDAR point clouds, camera images and labels. It captures a wide diversity of environments, weather conditions and driving scenarios. The data can be accessed at

NuScenes - Developed by Motional, NuScenes has 1,000 driving scenes in Boston and Singapore with multimodal sensor streams including LiDAR, radar, camera, IMU, GPS. The data enables training 3D object detection and tracking models. NuScenes can be downloaded from

While these open-source datasets provide a significant starting point for autonomous driving research and development, it's essential to note that they might not cover all the scenarios encountered in specific commercial applications. Therefore, complementing these datasets with your own data and annotations could be necessary to fully meet your operational needs. However, leveraging these datasets can undoubtedly save considerable time and resources in the initial stages of model training.

Annotate Your Data on BasicAI Cloud: for Small Project

For smaller projects or teams beginning their journey in autonomousdriving, BasicAI Cloud offers an easy-to-use platform for in-house data annotation. This FREE AI-powered multisensory training data platform supports various annotating tools, such as 2D / 3D bounding boxes, polygons, and semantic segmentation, making it suitable for a wide range of autonomous driving tasks. BasicAI Cloud offers a full AI-powered toolset that supports automatic annotation, segmentation, and object tracking. This DIY approach can effectively support initial model exploration and development.

BasicAI Data Annotation Service for Autonomous Driving and ADAS

When it comes to training machine learning models for autonomous driving and ADAS, the quality, accuracy, and robustness of training data annotated for autonomous vehicles is paramount. BasicAI's Data Annotation Services offer a comprehensive solution to meet these data annotation needs effectively and efficiently required by larger project.

BasicAI Data Annotation Service for Autonomous Driving and ADAS: 3D Bounding Boxes Annotation
  • Scalability: BasicAI can scale teams and throughput to annotate large datasets across diverse sensor streams like images, LiDAR point clouds, 4D radar, and more. Expertise: BasicAI leverages data experts with years of successful delivery, specifically annotating autonomous driving and ADAS data.

  • Fast Turnaround: BasicAI can annotate most autonomous driving datasets in under a week, enabling rapid iteration.

  • Quality Assurance: BasicAI follows rigorous QA processes including reviewer validation, spot checks, client reviews. This results in over 99% annotation accuracy for most projects.

  • Custom Workflows: BasicAI will set up customized annotation workflows specific to your sensor data types, label schemes, and model training requirements.

  • Flexible Pricing Models: BasicAI offers cost-efficient pricing tailored to project needs. Bulk discounts are available for large datasets.

  • Data Security: We have robust data security protocols, ensuring your data is handled with the utmost care and confidentiality.

BasicAI Data Annotation Service for Autonomous Driving and ADAS: Sensor Fusion Annotation

Our annotation capabilities span a wide range, including 2D and 3D bounding boxes, image segmentation, sensor fusion, 3D point cloud annotation, and lane detection, among others. With BasicAI's Data Annotation Services, you can focus on developing and fine-tuning your ML model, while we take care of the data annotation needs. Whether you are an established automotive company or a start-up venturing into autonomous driving technology, BasicAI is equipped to support you with top-quality data annotation services.

Discuss your data annotation needs with our experts today. Let's drive the future of autonomous vehicles together.

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