Perhaps you have just gotten a radar detector. Or, maybe you have used one for years, and you wondered: how does this thing work ANYWAY? It is important to understand how radar detectors work when you own one. It also gives you the power to decide if the one you have is still effective and when it’s time to get a new radar detector as it’s an ever-growing market and new technologies emerging every other day.
In this article, we will try to understand what a radar Detector is and what it does. Then we’ll cover how this applies to police radar and your radar detector.
Let’s get started!
What is Radar?
Radar, or Radio Detection and Ranging, is an object detection system. It can measure the distance to an object as well as the speed at which the object is moving.
To measure speed and distance, a radio transmitter and receiver are used. The transmitter sends out radio waves called radar signals in the desired direction.
Once the object is hit, the signals reflect back or scatter in numerous directions. The signals which reflect are essential. They reflect back onto the receiver and provide the desired information about distance and speed.
Just like freeze-dried food, Jeeps, and GPS, radar was initially developed for the military and then repurposed and rebranded for non-military institutions and citizens.
Police radar uses these radio waves to catch speeding drivers. After World War II, radar was repurposed as police radar in the 1950s. Police radar is built with the radio transmitter and receiver in one object. To properly read the speed of a car, police radar needs to be stationary.
So long as it is stationary, police radar can be placed almost anywhere to get an accurate reading.
An officer can use police radar from their vehicle, place it in the shrubbery, or hide it behind a civilian vehicle. Sometimes, the police do not need to be there at all as many precincts use traffic enforcement cameras (TEC) mounted over or on the side of the road.
The police radar transmitter sends out radar signals, typically short-reaching signals like K and Ka, in their desired direction. When it hits a moving car, multiple signals reflect back to the receiver.
The reading from the police radar or traffic enforcement cameras provides your speed. If you are over the limit, the officer will pursue you and ticket you, or a picture of your license plate will be taken from the TEC, and you’ll receive a ticket in the mail.
How Radar Detectors Work
Your radar detector detects other radar signals. Ideally, those used by police radar. Radar detectors began to be used by citizens in the 1970s. Your radio detector acts as a receiver; no transmitter is needed. The signals transmitted by police radar cast a wide net.
Your radar detector catches these signals from that wide net. When you are alerted of the police radar presence near you, you can slow down before passing the police radar.
When Radar Detectors Don’t Work
Radar detectors are imperfect, mostly as a result of other industries innovating their own technology. For instance, in recent years, the auto industry has created many cars which are programmed to avoid a collision and boast adaptive cruise control.
For these guidance systems to work, they send out radio waves at a specific frequency. Guess which ones? The same frequencies that are used by police radar, most commonly K and Ka. This will render your radar detector useless. Even automatic doors, like garages and grocery store entrances, can use the same signal.
What help is your radar detector to you if it alerts you of police radar, new cars, and automatic doors if it can’t tell you the difference between one and the others? No help at all.
When Radar Detectors Companies Innovate
There have been encouraging innovations to radar detectors in the last few years. Several new models have been made which differentiate police radar from radar signals in newer vehicles.
New technology has been created and implemented which filters out the signals from collision avoidance and adaptive cruise control. Three companies leading the way are Escort, Valentine Research, and Stinger VIP.
1. Escort has identified the unique signatures of the guidance systems used in newer cars. They created a filtering algorithm that differentiates those signatures from police radar. The alerts you receive from an Escort radar detector are much likelier to be signals from police radar.
Escort radar detectors are intuitive as well. Each time it identifies a guidance system signature, it takes notes and adds them to the library of signatures.
When a driver performs a firmware update to their Escort radar detector, it will add these signatures, ensuring that most of the alerts they receive are from police radar.
2. Valentine’s Research built upon Traffic Safety Rejection (TSR). This means that it receives K and Ka signals but is delayed. This filters out the majority of false alerts caused by guidance systems, but it does mean that you’ll have less time (a few seconds) to slow down for police radar.
3. Stinger VIP is not a radar detector but provides better results. This spectrum analyzer also identifies your own car’s radar signals.
The Stinger VIP was developed as a car computer with a spectrum analyzer. It performs “sweeps” of radar frequencies used by police.
It also filters out radar signals given off by your own vehicle. You can drive confidently knowing that your radar detector is receiving all frequencies used by police radar and cancels out the signals from your own car.
Make Informed Decisions about Your Radar Detector
If you have ever wondered how radar detectors work, now you know that there is a lot to know! When you know how radar detectors work, you have the power to decide if the detector you have is still effective and when it’s time to get a new radar detector. There are a variety of detectors to choose from.
If you have any questions about how radar detectors work and radar detector-related news, contact Avoid Radar.