In the early 1989, Laser Atlanta was founded by a group of engineers who designed the laser rangefinder uses on the M1A1 tank. Their goal was to be the first company to use this technology to produce a commercial laser for measuring the speeds of vehicles. They succeeded, and these products evolved into the SpeedLaser line of traffic lasers, now owned by MPH Industries.

When used for speed or distance measurement, these laser devices are also known by the name LIDAR (an acronym for Light Detection and Ranging) technology. Speed measuring lasers are also sometimes referred to as a laser speed measurement device (LSMD).

LIDAR technology operates on the “time of flight” or “Time-Distance” principle. The laser units transmit infrared light pulses at a moving object. Since the speed of light is known, it is possible to ascertain the distance of an object by the time it takes for a beam to bounce off an object and return. Changes in that distance over time provide the vehicle’s speed, a computation that is based on an average of hundreds of laser light pulses hitting the object in a fraction of a second.

LIDAR devices are often used in high traffic areas, since the laser beam does not spread as much as a radar beam does, allowing pinpoint accuracy. The officer can accurately measure the speed of a t vehicle in even heavy traffic.

Rules for operating LIDAR technology as traffic lasers vary from state to state. Always refer to your own state’s guidelines for specific requirements in your region.