Guidelines for the Use of Mobile LIDAR in Transportation Applications

The Transportation Research Board through the NCHRP program funded the development of "Guidelines for the Use of Mobile LIDAR in Transportation Applications." Mobile LIDAR is an exciting new technology for rapid geospatial data acquisition. It is being used successfully on an expanding variety of transportation-related projects and applications. This document provides information for both management considering the use of Mobile LiDAR, and technical staff developing a scope of work.

A pre-publication version of the Guidelines can be found at the project page:
Direct link:

This document has been organized into two main parts: Management and Technical, plus a number of Appendices that essentially document the entire research effort. In the Management section the intent is to provide guidance on the use and integration of mobile LIDAR data for a wide range of transportation applications without requiring an in-depth knowledge of the technology. For those who have the background, or want to learn more, the Technical section provides the details needed to completely specify the project requirements and deliverables.

These Guidelines are performance-based by design and provide guidance on Data Collection Categories (DCC) that are appropriate for the specific transportation application (s) of interest. The two variables considered are accuracy and point cloud density, which have been divided into nine categories of possible combinations for low, medium and high accuracy versus coarse, intermediate, and fine point cloud density.

It is important to note that the Guidelines are performance-based, rather than prescriptive as are many other standards and specifications. The intent is to place the responsibility for quality management on the geomatics professional in charge and to increase the longevity of the Guidelines by making them technology-agnostic. This also provides flexibility for the inevitable improvements in the technology, which in some cases are currently being pushed to the limit, while at the same time establishing a direct link between proper field procedures, documentation, deliverables and the intended end use of the data.

The Guidelines also provide general recommendations concerning the critical issue of data management. The maximum benefits of the use of mobile LIDAR will be obtained when the data is shared among departments and integrated into as many workflows as possible. There are many issues associated with managing the extremely large data sets associated with Mobile LIDAR, including interoperability and integration with existing CAD and GIS software, but a centralized data model that supports collaboration is critical to eliminating single purpose data applications.

This research was completed by a diverse team of experts (listed below) in geomatics, LIDAR, and transportation. An overseeing panel helped shape the Guidelines. We hope you will find these useful in your work and of real value for the work you need to complete. Plans are underway to develop training content for the Guidelines and we will keep you posted on those efforts as well as the published release of the Guidelines.

Michael J. Olsen, PhD, EIT, Oregon State University
Gene V. Roe, PhD, PE, PLS, MPN Components
Craig Glennie, PhD, PE University of Houston
Fred Persi, PhD, Persi Consulting
Marcus Reedy, PLS, David Evans and Associates
David Hurwitz, PhD, EIT Oregon State University
Keith Williams, MS, EIT, LSIT, Oregon State University
Halston Tuss, MS, Oregon State University
Anthony Squellati, PLS, David Evans and Associates
Mike Knodler, PhD, Innovative Data Inc.

About the Author

Michael Olsen

Michael Olsen ... Michael is an Assistant Professor of Geomatics in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University. He chairs the ASCE Geomatics Spatial Data Applications Committee and is on the editorial board for the ASCE Journal of Surveying Engineering. He has BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering from the University of Utah and a Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego. He has also worked as an Engineer in Training for West Valley City. His current areas of research include terrestrial laser scanning, remote sensing, GIS, geotechnical engineering, earthquake engineering, hazard mitigation, and 3D visualization. He teaches geomatics and geotechnical engineering courses at OSU where he has developed new, ground-breaking courses in Digital Terrain Modeling course and Building Information Modeling. Recent projects he has been involved with include: earthquake reconnaissance (following the American Samoa and Chile earthquakes and tsunamis), landslide analysis for the US 20 realignment, seacliff erosion mapping using LIDAR for San Diego County and Oregon, liquefaction hazard mapping for Utah, and modeling and studying historical buildings such as the Palazzo Medici and Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy.
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