Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Laser Speed Enforcement

Laser Ally speed laser
Not to sound alarming, but there's been a flurry of activity on the speed-enforcement front lately--and it's all bad news. The topic: lasers.

Speed lasers have been around since 1991 but until recent years their high price compared to radar has limited the number in service. But Moore's law also applies to the speed-measurement industry. As laser technology improves and component prices drop, laser prices fall and performance amps-up in unison. The number in service also increases dramatically.

First-generation lasers cost four grand and, save for the LTI 20-20, were unimpressive in performance. In a 1992 test, for instance, we found that we could jam a Kustom Signals Pro Laser I by turning on the target car's high beam headlights.

Two decades tend to make a difference, though, and the best of the new lasers have an attribute that makes them particularly lethal: anti-jamming software. The Laser Ally, arguably the best-designed speed laser ever, can't be detected, much less jammed, by any of today's radar/laser detectors, regardless of price.

It's also about one-third less expensive than its 1991 forebears, making it far more affordable for cash-strapped law enforcement departments. But it's not the only new player on the scene. 

At last fall's IACP—the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention, the cops' equivalent to Comdex or CES (Consumer Electronics Show)—I tried out six new laser guns from four manufacturers. Four were retail-priced under two grand. More are on the way.

The low-priced newbies have fewer features than their upmarket big brothers and their maximum target range is purposely clipped to 2,000 feet, to avoid cannibalizing sales. But this matters little if you're on the receiving end of their laser beams.

We've been testing these newcomers for the past year, including their reaction to laser jammers from Blinder, Escort, K40 and Laser Interceptor. The results have been mixed, but the best of these countermeasures are remarkably effective. When testing concludes soon we'll have the results and videos on Expect some surprises.