This paper reviews the whole-field optical diagnostic methods developed by the Applied Optics Laboratory (AOL) of the Rover Group for structural analysis. The techniques discussed provide measurements of a range of parameters, specifically: deformation, vibration amplitude and phase, shear stress, surface form, and flow velocity. The paper describes the philosophy used to develop the techniques and the overall business issues and applications which have driven their development. Each measurement system is then discussed in turn with emphasis on the novelty of the optical device or data analysis procedure used, and their relevance to automotive engineering applications. Illustrative examples are presented for each technique.