Three Software Considerations for Efficient, Effective Collision Reconstruction
Technology advances have made quick clearance for traffic incident management faster and safer than ever before. High-speed laser scanners capture comprehensive scene data in seconds; GNSS receivers can record accurate positions while being moved and tilted; robotic total stations provide fast, accurate and easy discrete point measurement; scanning total stations give you flexibility to use total station or scanning capabilities on the fly; and unmanned aircraft systems (also called drones or UAVs) give you an easy way to capture crucial details with photogrammetry. But finding the truth, closing the case file and presenting the data requires a way to easily import, process, analyze, visualize and create court-ready deliverables. Here are three key considerations for scene diagramming and reconstruction software.
1. The ability to quickly achieve accurate analysis and representation
When reconstructing a complicated crash scene, basic tasks such as importing data, cleaning up linework and creating the crash profile should be fast and easy. The software should be both intuitive and advanced, with tools that enable accurate analysis and representation. Technical Sergeant Kelly Phillips, of the Minnesota State Patrol Metro Crash Reconstruction Unit works a lot of large complex scenes. When reconstructing an especially challenging intersection crash in 2017, she relied on proven workflows to create the scene diagrams. “All of Map360 was extremely useful for this case,” she says. “But what I really like is the wipeout feature.” For the crash profile, Phillips selected exemplar vehicles from the Map360 library. “We imported the vehicle as a symbol, outlined the crash profile based off our map, and wiped out that crash profile portion from the symbol so it actually showed the damage on the vehicle,” she says. “We can match those cars up so much nicer, and it’s just easier to show the angle of impact.” (Read about Phillips’ workflows here.)
2. The ability to easily handle large images from drones
Many agencies are increasingly turning to unmanned aircraft systems (drones) as a way to provide quick clearance for traffic incident management. But importing large orthomosaic images along with state plane coordinate systems requires powerful software.
“Using mapping software with a CAD engine is key,” says Andrew Klane, a former commander of the Massachusetts State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section (CARS). “A CAD engine can easily handle large orthomosaic images from commonly used photogrammetry software like Pix4D, and it also ensures data integrity and accuracy. The workflow is remarkably easy, and it produces evidentiary-grade work that will stand up in court.” Klane, who is now managing partner and chief operating officer of Forensic Mapping Solutions Inc. (FMS), recently demonstrated the workflow with Map360 crash and crime drawing software in a webinar and Q&A session. (Watch the on-demand webinar here.)
3. The ability to combine data from multiple sensors
Complex crash scenes often need to be documented with multiple sensors—GNSS, total stations, laser scanners, drones and others—to capture evidence quickly and reopen the roadway. You should be able to easily combine these datasets in your scene diagramming and reconstruction software. The Oregon State Police Collision Reconstruction Unit chose its software specifically for this reason. “It doesn’t matter what technology I use because it all comes together in Map360,” says District 1 Lead Collision Reconstructionist William Bush, of the Oregon State Police in St. Helens. “It serves as the collection point for all things moving forward, and it hasn’t rejected any dataset that I’ve pushed into it to-date.”
In reconstructing a crash involving a fatality in the Coast Range mountains, Bush combined mobile LiDAR data with GNSS control and total station measurements. He was able to complete the standard overhead diagram that goes into each case file as well as a series of side views that clearly conveyed the geography and geometry of the scene—all in less than an hour. The quick data collection and delivery of work products enabled the district attorney’s office to determine in less than a month from call to closure whether there was any culpability on the surviving operator’s part. (Read about the case and Bush’s workflow here.)