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The ability of recognising traffic signs in a road traffic scenario is an important feature of the Daimler-Benz autonomous vehicle VITA II. This real-time vision-based traffic sign recognition system has been developed by Daimler-Benz in the European research project PROMETHEUS. In this paper we focus on the overall system design, the real-time implementation, and field test evaluation. The software architecture of the system integrates three hierarchical levels of data processing. On each level the specific tasks are isolated. The lowest level comprises specialists for colour, shape and pictogram analysis; they perform the iconic to symbolic data transformation. On the highest level the administration processes organise data flow as a double bottom-up and top-down mechanism to dynamically interpret the image sequence. A hybrid parallel machine was designed for running the traffic sign recognition system in real time on a transputer network coupled to powerPC processors.