How Important is Lidar?

Where would you rank the invention and subsequent impact of lidar on the world economy? I don’t think you can put it in the same category as the PC or the Internet, but how about the ruby laser which was critical to the development of the laser scanner to begin with? What about radar or GPS/GNSS? I think lidar will have a greater impact than GPS/GNSS and may be similar to radar.

Why do I ask? I have been reading a very thought provoking book by Tim Harford entitled,  “50 Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy.” It’s quite a diverse list which purposely does not include things like the printing press and the steam engine – too obvious.

Rather he discusses the impact of the plow, in particular the moldboard plow which cuts a long, thick ribbon of soil and turns it over; barbed wire designed by Joseph Glidden which supported land rights in the West; and the Google search engine which seems to be getting more powerful each year.

There are still 47 more to go including such things as TV dinners, video games, the bar code, concrete and radar. He does not include lidar, but in few years I’ll bet he will regret that he left it out.

Imagine if lidar were never invented what would you be doing today?


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