Tuesday, March 20, 2012

2012 Radar Rally

Cayman R clocked by LTI TruCam laser
I'm often amazed at the average driver's paucity of knowledge when it comes to radar and lidar (laser). For example, I recently engaged in a flurry of e-mail exchanges with a customer who swears that his Escort Passport 9500ix has hardly any range.

"My concern is that it doesn't seem to give you much radar notice.  When it does go off, it is usually a full alarm and I am right on top of or can see a cop.  Are there models that have the same or higher false alarms but better distance detection i.e. [Escort] Redline?" he implored.

He's experiencing moving radar being used in instant-on mode. Developed in the seventies to defeat radar detectors, it keeps the radar on standby, ready for action. But it's not transmitting a signal and radar detectors remain silent. When a likely target has approached the rolling cruiser to within about 700 feet, the officer presses the XMT (transmit) button and a few hundred milliseconds later, he's got a target speed. No time to react.

Explaining the phenomenon to this first-time detector user has proven fruitless, despite steering him to several videos we've made on the subject.

And another e-mail missive, this one from a fellow in Virginia. "The cops are using new radar and my (Escort) 8500 X50 doesn't go off. I'm very unhappy with its performance. Can you tell me what's wrong with it?"

In a phone conversation he related the details and it was instantly clear why his Escort had remained silent: the cops were using lasers, not radar.

Stalker II Ka-band radar at work
The sheer volume of erroneous online information on the subject of speed-measuring technology is astounding. And just about everyone, it seems, is confident that they're well up to speed on this stuff.

They're not, but try convincing them of that. Worse yet, I've got sitting on the shelf two new laser guns that can neither be detected nor jammed. Once their numbers grow, they'll become a tangible threat, further turning upside down the clueless driver's tenuous grasp of the technology.

But seeing is believing and there's one way to illustrate how the latest radar and laser are used against speeders. In mid-April we're hosting the first Radar Rally where teams will test their skill at beating the enforcers.

Cobra iRadar on Apple iPhone
Following an 80-mile route over a mix of urban streets, remote highways and county roads, they face an unknown number of ambushes en route—some of them our staffers in unmarked cars. Armed with a dazzling array of advanced electronics, they'll be lying in wait. So will the real cops, not to mention red light and speed cameras monitoring the route. Teams must identify and note the location of each threat—and without getting stopped.

I expect nearly every team to be packing advanced countermeasures. These include Cobra iRadar and Escort LIve, two smartphone apps that broadcast Internet realtime alerts to fellow users. Some will arm themselves with the Photoenforced.com or Trapster apps to skirt these hotspots. A few will pack only radar detectors; a smaller number can be expected to arrive with laser jammers to supplement their detectors.

Will anyone be able to run this gauntlet ticket-free? Perhaps; we'll find out. But our underlying mission is to raise contestants' awareness of this heightened level of enforcement. Post-race, we'll demonstrate these same radar and laser guns for the group, with tips on how best to counter them.

A few slots remain open for this fun-run extravaganza. If you'd like to test your skill at dodging the enforcers, send me an e-mail.