Multimedia Tools and Applications

, Volume 78, Issue 24, pp 35585–35606 | Cite as

License plate detection for multi-national vehicles – a generalized approach

  • Muhammad Rizwan Asif
  • Chun QiEmail author
  • Tiexiang Wang
  • Muhammad Sadiq Fareed
  • Subhan Khan


License plate detection for vehicle identification is one of the key problems for traffic surveillance in urban areas. Most of the existing methods that can handle multiple license plates are country-specific as color information has been typically targeted. In this paper, we propose a real-time multiple license plate detection method feasible for multi-national vehicles having variable colors, sizes and geometrical attributes. A region-of-interest is initially identified for each vehicle using a fuzzy inference system based on the salient feature of its rear lights as license plates generally exist in a vicinity of these lights. Due to the abundance of edges within the license plate region, a local recursive analysis approach is utilized to locate the license plate candidate within each region-of-interest after tilt correction using a rear-light alignment technique. To verify the detected region as a true license plate, a unique combination of local image features is used to achieve high precision. The proposed method has been tested on 2200 images taken during various weather and illumination conditions to detect 5379 license plates out of 5945 available vehicles with 90.5% accuracy. The proposed approach outperforms the conventional and deep learning methods to achieve superior performance with the ability of being applied to multi-national vehicles.


Intelligent vision system License plate detection Local image features Multi-national vehicles Vehicle identification Vehicle rear lights 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Bin Tian from Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China for providing the dataset for experimentation.

Author contributions

Conceptualization, Muhammad Rizwan Asif; methodology, Muhammad Rizwan Asif; software, Muhammad Rizwan Asif and Tiexiang Wang; validation, Muhammad Sadiq Fareed and Subhan Khan; formal analysis, Muhammad Sadiq Fareed and Subhan Khan; resources, Chun Qi; data writing—original draft preparation, Muhammad Rizwan Asif; writing—review and editing, Muhammad Rizwan Asif and Chun Qi; supervision, Chun Qi; funding acquisition, Chun Qi.


This research is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 61572395 and 61675161).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Electronics and Information EngineeringXi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of EngineeringAarhus UniversityAarhus NDenmark
  3. 3.School of Mechanical and Manufacturing EngineeringUniversity of New South Wales (UNSW)SydneyAustralia

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