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Semantic Segmentation Using Deep Learning

This example shows how to train a semantic segmentation network using deep learning.

A semantic segmentation network classifies every pixel in an image, resulting in an image that is segmented by class. Applications for semantic segmentation include road segmentation for autonomous driving and cancer cell segmentation for medical diagnosis. To learn more, see Semantic Segmentation Basics.

To illustrate the training procedure, this example trains SegNet [1], one type of convolutional neural network (CNN) designed for semantic image segmentation. Other types networks for semantic segmentation include fully convolutional networks (FCN) and U-Net. The training procedure shown here can be applied to those networks too.

This example uses the CamVid dataset [2] from the University of Cambridge for training. This dataset is a collection of images containing street-level views obtained while driving. The dataset provides pixel-level labels for 32 semantic classes including car, pedestrian, and road.

Learn more about


This example creates the SegNet network with weights initialized from the VGG-16 network. To get VGG-16, install Neural Network Toolbox™ Model for VGG-16 Network. After installation is complete, run the following code to verify that the installation is correct.


In addition, download a pretrained version of SegNet. The pretrained model allows you to run the entire example without having to wait for training to complete.

pretrainedURL = '';
pretrainedFolder = fullfile(tempdir,'pretrainedSegNet');
pretrainedSegNet = fullfile(pretrainedFolder,'segnetVGG16CamVid.mat');
if ~exist(pretrainedFolder,'dir')
    disp('Downloading pretrained SegNet (107 MB)...');

A CUDA-capable NVIDIA™ GPU with compute capability 3.0 or higher is highly recommended for running this example. Use of a GPU requires Parallel Computing Toolbox™.

Download CamVid Dataset

Download the CamVid dataset from the following URLs:

imageURL = '';
labelURL = '';

outputFolder = fullfile(tempdir, 'CamVid');

if ~exist(outputFolder, 'dir')
    disp('Downloading 557 MB CamVid dataset...');

    unzip(imageURL, fullfile(outputFolder,'images'));
    unzip(labelURL, fullfile(outputFolder,'labels'));

Note: Download time of the data depends on your Internet connection. The commands used above block MATLAB until the download is complete. Alternatively, you can use your web browser to first download the dataset to your local disk. To use the file you downloaded from the web, change the outputFolder variable above to the location of the downloaded file.

Load CamVid Images

Use imageDatastore to load CamVid images. The imageDatastore enables you to efficiently load a large collection of images on disk.

imgDir = fullfile(outputFolder,'images','701_StillsRaw_full');
imds = imageDatastore(imgDir);

Display one of the images.

I = readimage(imds, 1);
I = histeq(I);

Load CamVid Pixel-Labeled Images

Use pixelLabelDatastore to load CamVid pixel label image data. A pixelLabelDatastore encapsulates the pixel label data and the label ID to a class name mapping.

Following the procedure used in original SegNet paper [1], group the 32 original classes in CamVid to 11 classes. Specify these classes.

classes = [

To reduce 32 classes into 11, multiple classes from the orignal dataset are grouped together. For example, "Car" is a combination of "Car", "SUVPickupTruck", "Truck_Bus", "Train", and "OtherMoving". Return the grouped label IDs by using the supporting function camvidPixelLabelIDs, which is listed at the end of this example.

labelIDs = camvidPixelLabelIDs();

Use the classes and label IDs to create the pixelLabelDatastore:

labelDir = fullfile(outputFolder,'labels');
pxds = pixelLabelDatastore(labelDir,classes,labelIDs);

Read and display one of the pixel-labeled images by overlaying it on top of an image.

C = readimage(pxds, 1);

cmap = camvidColorMap;
B = labeloverlay(I,C,'ColorMap',cmap);


Areas with no color overlay do not have pixel labels and are not used during training.

Analyze Dataset Statistics

To see the distribution of class labels in the CamVid dataset, use countEachLabel. This function counts the number of pixels by class label.

tbl = countEachLabel(pxds)
tbl =

  11×3 table

        Name        PixelCount    ImagePixelCount
    ____________    __________    _______________

    'Sky'           7.6801e+07    4.8315e+08     
    'Building'      1.1737e+08    4.8315e+08     
    'Pole'          4.7987e+06    4.8315e+08     
    'Road'          1.4054e+08    4.8453e+08     
    'Pavement'      3.3614e+07    4.7209e+08     
    'Tree'          5.4259e+07     4.479e+08     
    'SignSymbol'    5.2242e+06    4.6863e+08     
    'Fence'         6.9211e+06     2.516e+08     
    'Car'           2.4437e+07    4.8315e+08     
    'Pedestrian'    3.4029e+06    4.4444e+08     
    'Bicyclist'     2.5912e+06    2.6196e+08     

Visualize the pixel counts by class.

frequency = tbl.PixelCount/sum(tbl.PixelCount);


Ideally, all classes would have an equal number of observations. However, the classes in CamVid are imbalanced, which is a common issue in automotive datasets of street scenes. Such scenes have more sky, building, and road pixels than pedestrian and bicyclist pixels because sky, buildings and roads cover more area in the image. If not handled correctly, this imbalance can be detrimental to the learning process because the learning is biased in favor of the dominant classes. Later on in this example, you will use class weighting to handle this issue.

Resize CamVid Data

The images in the CamVid data set are 720 by 960. To reduce training time and memory usage, resize the images and pixel label images to 360 by 480. resizeCamVidImages and resizeCamVidPixelLabels are supporting functions listed at the end of this example.

imageFolder = fullfile(outputFolder,'imagesReszed',filesep);
imds = resizeCamVidImages(imds,imageFolder);

labelFolder = fullfile(outputFolder,'labelsResized',filesep);
pxds = resizeCamVidPixelLabels(pxds,labelFolder);

Prepare Training and Test Sets

SegNet is trained using 60% of the images from the dataset. The rest of the images are used for testing. The following code randomly splits the image and pixel label data into a training and test set.

[imdsTrain, imdsTest, pxdsTrain, pxdsTest] = partitionCamVidData(imds,pxds);

The 60/40 split results in the following number of training and test images:

numTrainingImages = numel(imdsTrain.Files)
numTestingImages = numel(imdsTest.Files)
numTrainingImages =


numTestingImages =


Create the Network

Use segnetLayers to create a SegNet network initialized using VGG-16 weights. segnetLayers automatically performs the network surgery needed to transfer the weights from VGG-16 and adds the additional layers required for semantic segmentation.

imageSize = [360 480 3];
numClasses = numel(classes);
lgraph = segnetLayers(imageSize,numClasses,'vgg16');

The image size is selected based on the size of the images in the dataset. The number of classes is selected based on the classes in CamVid.

Balance Classes Using Class Weighting

As shown earlier, the classes in CamVid are not balanced. To improve training, you can use class weighting to balance the classes. Use the pixel label counts computed earlier with countEachLabel and calculate the median frequency class weights [1].

imageFreq = tbl.PixelCount ./ tbl.ImagePixelCount;
classWeights = median(imageFreq) ./ imageFreq
classWeights =


Specify the class weights using a pixelClassificationLayer.

pxLayer = pixelClassificationLayer('Name','labels','ClassNames', tbl.Name, 'ClassWeights', classWeights)
pxLayer = 

  PixelClassificationLayer with properties:

            Name: 'labels'
      ClassNames: {11×1 cell}
    ClassWeights: [11×1 double]
      OutputSize: 'auto'

    LossFunction: 'crossentropyex'

Update the SegNet network with the new pixelClassificationLayer by removing the current pixelClassificationLayer and adding the new layer. The current pixelClassificationLayer is named 'pixelLabels'. Remove it using removeLayers, add the new one using|addLayers|, and connect the new layer to the rest of the network using connectLayers.

lgraph = removeLayers(lgraph, 'pixelLabels');
lgraph = addLayers(lgraph, pxLayer);
lgraph = connectLayers(lgraph, 'softmax' ,'labels');

Select Training Options

The optimization algorithm used for training is stochastic gradient decent with momentum (SGDM). Use trainingOptions to specify the hyperparameters used for SGDM.

options = trainingOptions('sgdm', ...
    'Momentum', 0.9, ...
    'InitialLearnRate', 1e-3, ...
    'L2Regularization', 0.0005, ...
    'MaxEpochs', 100, ...
    'MiniBatchSize', 4, ...
    'Shuffle', 'every-epoch', ...
    'VerboseFrequency', 2);

A mini-batch size of 4 is used to reduce memory usage while training. You can increase or decrease this value based on the amount of GPU memory you have on your system.

Data Augmentation

Data augmentation is used during training to provide more examples to the network because it helps improve the accuracy of the network. Here, random left/right reflection and random X/Y translation of +/- 10 pixels is used for data augmentation. Use the imageDataAugmenter to specify these data augmentation parameters.

augmenter = imageDataAugmenter('RandXReflection',true,...
    'RandXTranslation', [-10 10], 'RandYTranslation',[-10 10]);

imageDataAugmenter supports several other types of data augmentation. Choosing among them requires empirical analysis and is another level of hyperparameter tuning.

Start Training

Combine the training data and data augmentation selections using pixelLabelImageSource. The pixelLabelImageSource reads batches of training data, applies data augmentation, and sends the augmented data to the training algorithm.

datasource = pixelLabelImageSource(imdsTrain,pxdsTrain,...

Startl training using trainNetwork if the doTraining flag is true. Otherwise, load a pretrained network. Note: Training takes about 5 hours on an NVIDIA™ Titan X and can take even longer depending on your GPU hardware.

doTraining = false;
if doTraining
    [net, info] = trainNetwork(datasource,lgraph,options);
    data = load(pretrainedSegNet);
    net =;

Test Network on One Image

As a quick sanity check, run the trained network on one test image.

I = read(imdsTest);
C = semanticseg(I, net);

Display the results.

B = labeloverlay(I, C, 'Colormap', cmap, 'Transparency',0.4);
pixelLabelColorbar(cmap, classes);

Compare the results in C with the expected ground truth stored in pxdsTest. The green and magenta regions highlight areas where the segmentation results differ from the expected ground truth.

expectedResult = read(pxdsTest);
actual = uint8(C);
expected = uint8(expectedResult);
imshowpair(actual, expected)

Visually, the semantic segmentation results overlap well for classes such as road, sky, and building. However, smaller objects like pedestrians and cars are not as accurate. The amount of overlap per class can be measured using the intersection-over-union (IoU) metric, also known as the Jaccard index. Use the jaccard function to measure IoU.

iou = jaccard(C, expectedResult);
ans =

  11×2 table

      classes         iou   
    ____________    ________

    "Sky"            0.92801
    "Building"        0.8171
    "Pole"           0.16866
    "Road"           0.96595
    "Pavement"       0.45793
    "Tree"           0.45953
    "SignSymbol"     0.38162
    "Fence"          0.51443
    "Car"           0.096803
    "Pedestrian"           0
    "Bicyclist"            0

The IoU metric confirms the visual results. Road, sky, and building classes have high IoU scores, while classes such as pedestrian and car have low scores. Other common segmentation metrics include the Dice index and the Boundary-F1 contour matching score.

Evaluate Trained Network

To measure accuracy for multiple test images, run semanticseg on the entire test set.

pxdsResults = semanticseg(imdsTest,net,'WriteLocation',tempdir,'Verbose',false);

semanticseg returns the results for the test set as a pixelLabelDatastore object. The actual pixel label data for each test image in imdsTest is written to disk in the location specified by the 'WriteLocation' parameter. Use evaluateSemanticSegmentation to measure semantic segmentation metrics on the test set results.

metrics = evaluateSemanticSegmentation(pxdsResults,pxdsTest,'Verbose',false);

evaluateSemanticSegmentation returns various metrics for the entire dataset, for individual classes, and for each test image. To see the dataset level metrics, inspect metrics.DataSetMetrics .

ans =

  1×5 table

    GlobalAccuracy    MeanAccuracy    MeanIoU    WeightedIoU    MeanBFScore
    ______________    ____________    _______    ___________    ___________

    0.88236           0.85071         0.60986    0.7988         0.61248    

The dataset metrics provide a high-level overview of the network performance. To see the impact each class has on the overall performance, inspect the per-class metrics using metrics.ClassMetrics.

ans =

  11×3 table

                  Accuracy      IoU      MeanBFScore
                  ________    _______    ___________

    Sky           0.93544     0.89279    0.88239    
    Building      0.79978     0.75543    0.59861    
    Pole          0.73166     0.18361    0.51426    
    Road          0.93644     0.90663     0.7086    
    Pavement      0.90624     0.72932    0.70585    
    Tree          0.86587     0.73694    0.67097    
    SignSymbol    0.76118     0.35339    0.44175    
    Fence         0.83258     0.49648    0.50265    
    Car           0.90961     0.75263    0.64837    
    Pedestrian    0.83751     0.35409    0.46796    
    Bicyclist     0.84156      0.5472    0.46933    

Although the overall dataset performance is quite high, the class metrics show that underrepresented classes such as Pedestrian, Bicyclist, and Car are not segmented as well as classes such as Road, Sky, and Building . Additional data that includes more samples of the underrepresented classes might help improve the results.


[1] Badrinarayanan, Vijay, Alex Kendall, and Roberto Cipolla. "SegNet: A Deep Convolutional Encoder-Decoder Architecture for Image Segmentation." arXiv preprint arXiv:1511.00561, 2015.

[2] Brostow, Gabriel J., Julien Fauqueur, and Roberto Cipolla. "Semantic object classes in video: A high-definition ground truth database." Pattern Recognition Letters Vol 30, Issue 2, 2009, pp 88-97.

Supporting Functions

function labelIDs = camvidPixelLabelIDs()
% Return the label IDs corresponding to each class.
% The CamVid dataset has 32 classes. Group them into 11 classes following
% the original SegNet training methodology [1].
% The 11 classes are:
%   "Sky" "Building", "Pole", "Road", "Pavement", "Tree", "SignSymbol",
%   "Fence", "Car", "Pedestrian",  and "Bicyclist".
% CamVid pixel label IDs are provided as RGB color values. Group them into
% 11 classes and return them as a cell array of M-by-3 matrices. The
% original CamVid class names are listed alongside each RGB value. Note
% that the Other/Void class are excluded below.
labelIDs = { ...

    % "Sky"
    128 128 128; ... % "Sky"

    % "Building"
    000 128 064; ... % "Bridge"
    128 000 000; ... % "Building"
    064 192 000; ... % "Wall"
    064 000 064; ... % "Tunnel"
    192 000 128; ... % "Archway"

    % "Pole"
    192 192 128; ... % "Column_Pole"
    000 000 064; ... % "TrafficCone"

    % Road
    128 064 128; ... % "Road"
    128 000 192; ... % "LaneMkgsDriv"
    192 000 064; ... % "LaneMkgsNonDriv"

    % "Pavement"
    000 000 192; ... % "Sidewalk"
    064 192 128; ... % "ParkingBlock"
    128 128 192; ... % "RoadShoulder"

    % "Tree"
    128 128 000; ... % "Tree"
    192 192 000; ... % "VegetationMisc"

    % "SignSymbol"
    192 128 128; ... % "SignSymbol"
    128 128 064; ... % "Misc_Text"
    000 064 064; ... % "TrafficLight"

    % "Fence"
    064 064 128; ... % "Fence"

    % "Car"
    064 000 128; ... % "Car"
    064 128 192; ... % "SUVPickupTruck"
    192 128 192; ... % "Truck_Bus"
    192 064 128; ... % "Train"
    128 064 064; ... % "OtherMoving"

    % "Pedestrian"
    064 064 000; ... % "Pedestrian"
    192 128 064; ... % "Child"
    064 000 192; ... % "CartLuggagePram"
    064 128 064; ... % "Animal"

    % "Bicyclist"
    000 128 192; ... % "Bicyclist"
    192 000 192; ... % "MotorcycleScooter"


function pixelLabelColorbar(cmap, classNames)
% Add a colorbar to the current axis. The colorbar is formatted
% to display the class names with the color.


% Add colorbar to current figure.
c = colorbar('peer', gca);

% Use class names for tick marks.
c.TickLabels = classNames;
numClasses = size(cmap,1);

% Center tick labels.
c.Ticks = 1/(numClasses*2):1/numClasses:1;

% Remove tick mark.
c.TickLength = 0;
function cmap = camvidColorMap()
% Define the colormap used by CamVid dataset.

cmap = [
    128 128 128   % Sky
    128 0 0       % Building
    192 192 192   % Pole
    128 64 128    % Road
    60 40 222     % Pavement
    128 128 0     % Tree
    192 128 128   % SignSymbol
    64 64 128     % Fence
    64 0 128      % Car
    64 64 0       % Pedestrian
    0 128 192     % Bicyclist

% Normalize between [0 1].
cmap = cmap ./ 255;
function imds = resizeCamVidImages(imds, imageFolder)
% Resize images to [360 480].

if ~exist(imageFolder,'dir')
    imds = imageDatastore(imageFolder);
    return; % Skip if images already resized

while hasdata(imds)
    % Read an image.
    [I,info] = read(imds);

    % Resize image.
    I = imresize(I,[360 480]);

    % Write to disk.
    [~, filename, ext] = fileparts(info.Filename);
    imwrite(I,[imageFolder filename ext])

imds = imageDatastore(imageFolder);
function pxds = resizeCamVidPixelLabels(pxds, labelFolder)
% Resize pixel label data to [360 480].

classes = pxds.ClassNames;
labelIDs = 1:numel(classes);
if ~exist(labelFolder,'dir')
    pxds = pixelLabelDatastore(labelFolder,classes,labelIDs);
    return; % Skip if images already resized

while hasdata(pxds)
    % Read the pixel data.
    [C,info] = read(pxds);

    % Convert from categorical to uint8.
    L = uint8(C);

    % Resize the data. Use 'nearest' interpolation to
    % preserve label IDs.
    L = imresize(L,[360 480],'nearest');

    % Write the data to disk.
    [~, filename, ext] = fileparts(info.Filename);
    imwrite(L,[labelFolder filename ext])

labelIDs = 1:numel(classes);
pxds = pixelLabelDatastore(labelFolder,classes,labelIDs);
function [imdsTrain, imdsTest, pxdsTrain, pxdsTest] = partitionCamVidData(imds,pxds)
% Partition CamVid data by randomly selecting 60% of the data for training. The
% rest is used for testing.

% Set initial random state for example reproducibility.
numFiles = numel(imds.Files);
shuffledIndices = randperm(numFiles);

% Use 60% of the images for training.
N = round(0.60 * numFiles);
trainingIdx = shuffledIndices(1:N);

% Use the rest for testing.
testIdx = shuffledIndices(N+1:end);

% Create image datastores for training and test.
trainingImages = imds.Files(trainingIdx);
testImages = imds.Files(testIdx);
imdsTrain = imageDatastore(trainingImages);
imdsTest = imageDatastore(testImages);

% Extract class and label IDs info.
classes = pxds.ClassNames;
labelIDs = 1:numel(pxds.ClassNames);

% Create pixel label datastores for training and test.
trainingLabels = pxds.Files(trainingIdx);
testLabels = pxds.Files(testIdx);
pxdsTrain = pixelLabelDatastore(trainingLabels, classes, labelIDs);
pxdsTest = pixelLabelDatastore(testLabels, classes, labelIDs);