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17.0 EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES

These Guidelines were developed to accommodate changes in the component technology as new products are developed. So long as the basic operating principles remain the same, the Guidelines will apply. However, it is important to discuss technological advancements that are on the horizon. These include:

1.   Upgrades to system components

Scanners are rapidly improving in terms of speed, accuracy, range, portability, and many other features. It is likely that IMUs will continue to improve as well.

2.   Integrated systems and technologies

While integrated systems exist for IMUs and GNSS receivers, future advances may enable all other components to be included in one unit. This will eliminate some of the current calibration needs. However, a drawback to integrated systems is that it can be difficult to distinguish where problems have occurred if one system fails.

3.   GNSS

GNSS is still in its infancy and many more satellites will be available in the future. As more satellites are available, it is anticipated that more accurate positioning information can be obtained from improved satellite geometry, reducing PDOP and multi-path.

4.   Improved Geoid modeling and height modernization

Advancements in the geoid model will enable improved orthometric (i.e., height above sea level) elevation values from GNSS.

5.   3D point cloud reconstruction from 2D images

Recent advances in computer science have enabled 3D point clouds to be generated from a series of 2D images. While this essentially works off of photogrammetric principles, improvements in density and automatic model generation have recently increased dramatically.

6.   Integration of multiple sensors on the mobile platform

Additional sensors such as inertial profilers for pavement roughness evaluation and reflectometers for sign inventory can be mounted to the vehicle to collect additional information.  Currently, the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) requires transportation agencies to continually collect parameters related to safety, many of which are geospatially related and can be collected from a single platform.

7.   Flash LIDAR

Systems have been developed to send out a large area pulse/flash (compared to a series of individual pulses implemented by current systems), resulting in a seamless, 2.5D range image.  Conceptually this is similar to taking a photograph with a flash to illuminate the scene, but the “camera” captures accurate range information in the process instead of a reflected sunlight (i.e. photograph).

8.   Photon Counting LIDAR

Researchers are developing the ability to track individual photons of light in the LIDAR pulse. This will enable smaller more robust sensors that are able to map at potentially higher resolution.

9.   New Scanners

Current manufacturers will continue to develop new scanners with new features and capabilities, faster acquisition speeds, and improved precision. It is also likely that we will see an increase in additional manufacturers. These developments and increased adoption of scanning will continue to drive costs down.

10. Full-waveform

Recent scanners have full-waveform capabilities; however, very limited software packages currently support full-waveform analyses.  Future software will enable one to take advantage of this information compared to the discrete, individual pulses available in current platforms. Full-waveform can be useful in ground filtering, distinguishing the type of object the pulse reflected from, identifying mixed pixel effects, and retrieving additional returns missing in discrete return datasets.

11. Unmanned Vehicle Systems (UVS)

LIDAR systems (and others sensors) have been mounted to UVS, which have a lot of flexibility for data acquisition.  Airborne use is currently limited due to FAA restrictions.

12. Connected Vehicle Program

Improved integration between data acquired by MLS will enable advanced features to be developed through the connected vehicle program.  MLS technology combined with advanced feature extraction will enable more accurate data and more frequent updates to information needed such as intersection geometry, locations of stop bars, lane boundaries, signal head locations, etc. that can be fed to vehicles in this system.

It is critical that organizations be flexible as new technologies emerge. Workflows, patterns, and day-to-day tasks will change, and people must be willing to change with them for progress to occur. Establishing an innovation group (that is allowed to fail while pushing the envelope) within a transportation agency is important to evaluate these new technologies and how they can be efficiently integrated into an organization. These successes and failures should be documented and shared both within the agency and the entire transportation community.