Comparison of 3D scan matching techniques for autonomous robot navigation in urban and agricultural environments

Javier Guevara, Jordi Gené-Mola, Eduard Gregorio, Miguel Torres-Torriti, Giulio Reina, Fernando A.Auat Cheein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Global navigation satellite system (GNSS) is the standard solution for solving the localization problem in outdoor environments, but its signal might be lost when driving in dense urban areas or in the presence of heavy vegetation or overhanging canopies. Hence, there is a need for alternative or complementary localization methods for autonomous driving. In recent years, exteroceptive sensors have gained much attention due to significant improvements in accuracy and cost-effectiveness, especially for 3D range sensors. By registering two successive 3D scans, known as scan matching, it is possible to estimate the pose of a vehicle. This work aims to provide in-depth analysis and comparison of the state-of-the-art 3D scan matching approaches as a solution to the localization problem of autonomous vehicles. Eight techniques (deterministic and probabilistic) are investigated: iterative closest point (with three different embodiments), normal distribution transform, coherent point drift, Gaussian mixture model, support vector-parametrized Gaussian mixture and the particle filter implementation. They are demonstrated in long path trials in both urban and agricultural environments and compared in terms of accuracy and consistency. On the one hand, most of the techniques can be successfully used in urban scenarios with the probabilistic approaches that show the best accuracy. On the other hand, agricultural settings have proved to be more challenging with significant errors even in short distance trials due to the presence of featureless natural objects. The results and discussion of this work will provide a guide for selecting the most suitable method and will encourage building of improvements on the identified limitations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number024508
JournalJournal of Applied Remote Sensing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2021


  • 3D point cloud registration
  • autonomous vehicles
  • mobile robot sensing
  • robot localization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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