Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Junk Radar-Fighters

False alarms from radar-controlled door openers today are a minor irritation compared to those caused by millions of vehicles with lane-change warning systems.
For the driver using a radar detector, false alarms used to be merely an irritation; today they're a plague. A vast array of equipment now shares K band with police radar, cluttering the airwaves with microwave energy.

For example, commercial automatic door openers use radar. Drive within a quarter mile of a Walmart and expect an alert. More nuisance signals have arrived as state transportation departments install traffic-sensing radar (TSR) to monitor traffic flow and volume. 

A much bigger problem is Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) technology. These lane-change warning systems sense an adjacent vehicle and warn when a lane-change maneuver is dangerous. Most use—you guessed it—K-band radar.

Traffic-sensing radar watches a freeway
Radar speed signs along roads show your speed and scold when you're over the limit. These gadgets also use K band and set off a detector each time one is passed. The challenge today is how to filter out all the junk without missing genuine radar buried in the noise.

The best hope to date is a high-end detector with GPS. Door openers don't change locations and since the GPS radar detector is always aware of its location, it can lock out door openers by storing their frequency and coordinates in a database. Next time you roll past, it stays quiet.

With GPS the detector can also warn of red light and speed cameras. Drivers in the 22 states using cameras likely will find this helpful.

If there's a downside to GPS-enabled detectors it's cost. Escort had this market to itself for years and priced its wares accordingly, from $500 to over $3,500.

But some lower-priced newcomers have joined the fray. And in our recent test, some of them easily outperformed the new Escort Redline EX ($599). 

For the first time, drivers looking for a detector able to filter out junk radar signals have some lower-priced options. View the test results.