Caltrans demos its souped-up $1 million surveying SUV

Updated Mar 29, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 3.18.17 PMThe California Department of Transportation has released a new video in its News Flash series, and in it, you can watch as a Caltrans worker uses the department’s “revolutionary” surveying vehicle.

“Some call it a Google car on steroids, at Caltrans we call it Mobile Terrestrial Laser Scanner,” spokesman Gilbert Mohtes-Chan said.

Caltrans said in a press release that the Mobile Terrestrial Laser Scanning vehicle is being put to use to save an extraordinary amount of time and manpower as compared to the traditional method of surveying.

With 7 cameras, 2 spinning lasers and amber rotator lights, the vehicle is able to use a laser scanner and GPS navigation to gather up to 1 million points of 3D surveying data per minute while driving along highways.

The department said the vehicle can get done in a day what it would have taken a traditional survey team months to accomplish. But the biggest advantage, according to Caltrans Senior Transportation Surveyor Matt Herbert, is how much safer the new technology makes surveying.

“The issue we face all the time in surveys is the safety factor,” Herbert said. “And this machine minimizes those risks, and allows us to get the project surveyed in a much safer manner.”

The vehicle cost $1 million, but it’s being shared by all 12 districts and has already been used to survey for more than 200 projects.