Assessing Vehicle Profiling Accuracy of Handheld LiDAR Compared to Terrestrial Laser Scanning for Crash Scene Reconstruction

Sensors (Basel). 2021 Dec 2;21(23):8076. doi: 10.3390/s21238076.


Forensic crash investigation often requires developing detailed profiles showing the location and extent of vehicle damage to identify impact areas, impact direction, deformation, and estimated vehicle speeds at impact. Traditional damage profiling techniques require extended and comprehensive setups for mapping and measurement that are quite labor- and time-intensive. Due to the time involved, this damage profiling is usually done in a remote holding area after the crash scene is cleared. Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) scanning technology in consumer handheld electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets, holds significant potential for conducting this damage profile mapping in just a few minutes, allowing the mapping to be conducted at the scene before the vehicle(s) are moved. However, there is limited research and even scarcer published literature on field procedures and/or accuracy for these emerging smartphones and tablets with LiDAR. This paper proposes a methodology and subsequent measurement accuracy comparisons for survey-grade terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) and handheld alternatives. The maximum root mean square error (RMSE) obtained for profile distance between handheld (iPad) and survey-grade TLS LiDAR scans for a damaged vehicle was observed to be 3 cm, a level of accuracy that is likely sufficient and acceptable for most forensic studies.

Keywords: 3D scanning; LiDAR; crash scene reconstruction; damage profiling.

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection
  • Lasers*
  • Light*