Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cheetah C50 Review/Preview: Best-of-Breed GPS Camera Detector Gets Even Better With Trinity 2.0

Cheetah C50 gps camera detector

Cheetah C50 Review/Preview: Best-of-Breed GPS Camera Detector Gets Even Better with new Trinity 2.0 Feature

Updated: 23 Apr 14, By Veil Guy

Scotland UK, 23 Aug 2009: I am pleased to inform our readers that best-of-breed Cheetah Advanced Technologies LTD of Scotland, will soon be introducing the newer and more powerful Cheetah C50, the most advanced GPS Camera Detector, yet to appear on our shores, and at a price point that is remarkably hard to believe, retailing at just $99USD. General availability date is expected to be 14 Sep 09.

The advanced Cheetah C50 is the first GPS camera detector preloaded with the Trinity 2.0 Advanced Database which enables the Cheetah C50 to alert to all types of photo enforcement camera systems including those of Redflex, ATS, Nestor, Lasercraft, Gatso, ACS, Redspped, Traffipax, TruVelo, SPECS average speed cameras, Point-to-point average speed cameras, Watchman, Speedcurb and others.

65 Unique Camera Alerts - Spoken Voice, not Just Beeps

The Cheetah C50 uniquely provides 65 distinct camera and other hazard detection voice alerts.

The Cheetah C50 provides you more detailed and useful camera information than any other detector on the market. It is the only camera locator in the world that can tell you not only what kind of camera is approaching, but also if the camera is on the highway, the exit ramp, the frontage road, the city street, in the tunnel, after the end of the tunnel, on the overpass (flyover), at the school zone, at the construction zone, or near the bridge ahead.

Spoken voice alerts means you will always know exactly what hazard is approaching, enabling you to instantly assess the importance of the approaching threat.

3 User operating Modes with One Touch Switching

There are Three User Selectable Operating Modes:
  1. All cameras, mobile traps, and safety alerts

  2. Speed and red-light cameras only alerts

  3. Speed cameras only alerts
By providing three distinct alert modes, you can precisely tailor the Cheetah C50 to your particular hazard circumstances.

A $99 Detector with $400 Worth of Features
  • Preloaded with your region's cameras with 44 countries covered: North America (US & Canada), EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) or Australasia (Australia & New Zealand)

  • Trinity 2.0 Enhanced Alerts - 65 spoken voice alerts for more useful & accurate camera info

  • Multi-directional alerts using vectored approaches resulting in fewer false alarms than less sophisticated "radius alert" type devices (GPS, GPS-enabled radar detectors, and other camera locators)

  • Three user-selectable operating modes

  • Switch off alerts for the "non-enforced" directions at red light camera intersections for a quieter less-false alerting ride

  • Speed camera sound effects

  • Posted speed limit reminders during camera alerts

  • SpeedTone Intelligence - only beeps above PSL & becomes more urgent in close proximity to cameras

  • Confirmation end-of-alert chime

  • Database automatic update reminder during power-on sequence

  • Ability to store 100 customized personal locations with easy one-touch marking

  • 5 speed reminders-set reminders in increments of 1 mph for real enforcement thresholds, like 9 or 11 over PSL

  • Real-time GPS speedometer display

  • 8 point compass display - flashes different patterns during camera alerts

  • Rotary volume control

  • Internal GPS antenna with faster start-up times requiring only 3 satellites to start functioning

  • Remote GPS antenna socket for cars with Athermic windshields or customized installations

  • GPS signal feed via USB - lets you run GPS applications right from your laptops, notebooks, & PDAs, etc.

  • Earphone socket for motorcycle use or linking with your car stereo

  • Magnetic puck for dashboard of steering column mounting

  • Cheetah C50 Demonstration mode

The Cheetah C50 can be easily updated via a PC by it's USB port without the requirement of an additional DC power cord like those required by a number of GPS-enabled radar detectors.

For those living and driving in areas with a low density or static positioning of photo enforcement then the Cheeatah C50 is ready for use straight out of the box. For those wishing to keep their Trinity 2.0 database current, Cheetah provides two subscription options.

The first is the Gold membership which retails at $29.99USD which provides for unlimited database updates through the Internet for 3 years of camera updates, a 1 year warranty plus other benefits like Cheetah software which allows further customizations to the Cheetah C50 from your computer.

For an additional $20USD ($49.99USD total) the Platinum membership provides you a lifetime of updates and an additional 2 years of warranty coverage for a total of 3 years. The platinum membership also enables the world traveler database coverage for other regions of the world.

For those drivers requiring an interface to other radar detector and laser jammers, the existing products from Cheetah—Cheetah C100 and Cheetah GPS Mirror—will remain available as the C50 is designed as a stand-alone detector.

Once we receive a shipping version, I will follow-up with a more formal review. Until that time, we thank our Scottish friends at Cheetah for providing an even more sophisticated solution to the rapid expansion of automated photo enforcement systems in this country.

Happy and Safe Motoring!

Veil Guy

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Most Lethal Form of Police RADAR and How to Protect Against It

Most Lethal Form of Police RADAR & How to Protect Against It

Updated: 23 Apr 14, By Veil Guy

Lately there has been some buzz online concerning a form of police radar, which I'll refer to as instant-on police radar (including all of its variations).

Since, I believe, instant-on police radar is the most lethal form of police radar that exists, I thought it might be helpful to share my perspective on this topic.

What exactly is instant-on radar?

Instant-on radar is a method of measuring speed when the officer turns on (and then off) the transmitter of his/her radar unit for a discreet (often limited) period of time for the purposes of targeting a particular vehicle or series of vehicles that is in close proximity to the radar operator and in a manner which provides limited advanced notice (to those who drive with radar detectors). It can be used in either a stationery or moving position and is generally used as an "ambush" tactic with patrol vehicles routinely hidden from plain view until the last moments (or even from a hidden position from the rear).

This is opposed to constant-on radar operating mode, where the radar transmitter is left on continuously (or for an extended period of time) and not used in a manner that particularly targets any one vehicle or series of vehicles.

What defines an instant-on trigger pull of radar is not so much the time of the trigger-pull (ie; the duration of radar transmission), but the when the triggered is pulled (regardless of the radar transmission duration).

It is the when, that makes instant-on, such a lethal threat to us drivers.

Why? Because if you are the one being targeted with instant-on (even with a radar detector), then the great likelihood is the officer will have been able to clock your speed before you (and your detector) had enough time to react (in the event you were "speeding").

Instant-on radar was specifically created decades ago, to foil radar detectors and to make it harder on us drivers, who chose to use a radar detector to outwit police radar enforcement while adding to driver situational awareness within the cockpit.

This effort has continued, particularly by one police radar gun manufacturer, MPH.

POP™ is a "feature" that was originally introduced (in prototype form) by MPH in 2002.

These first prototypes were designed to transmit a brief burst of radar signal for a duration of 150ms or 0.150 seconds. It was believed (by MPH) that this duration would be quick enough to beat-out radar detectors whose potential reaction times had increased from 50ms (0.050 seconds)—in the days of X-band and K-band only produced detectors—as a consequence of the incorporation of Ka detection and the additional time required to scan/sweep this superwide Ka band as well as an extension of time required to see some brief Ka-emissions (as a means of reducing falsing) from a huge amount of cheaply produced 9,10, and 11-band Cobra radar detectors (a problem that exists to this day).

It is not unheard of that some radar detectors require or are designed to require a radar transmission to exist for a period of 800ms to 1500ms ( 0.8-1.5 seconds!) before alerting to it.

As it turned out several companies (namely Whistler) were still able to detect these prototypes' transmissions. Having been made aware of this fact, MPH then adjusted their models to operate at 67ms (roughly half their initial design). It was at this time (2003) that MPH produced their Bee III 33.8Ghz Ka POP radar gun.

The technology was then produced in a K-band gun in 2004 at also 67ms (0.067 seconds).

Over time the radar detector manufacturers responded with models that were able to detect these brief transmissions. In 2005, MPH released another POP-enabled K-band police radar capable of transmitting at a blistering 16ms (0.016 seconds). Even now, the mighty Valentine 1, can generally only alert to this about 1 out of 10 times (10% of the time).

Why does all this matter?

In so far as POP is concerned, I don't believe it matters much, as POP mode is not an IACP approved form of measuring speed, nor does it provide a tracking history, technically procedurally required for the operation of police radar. Furthermore, police laser, I believe, is better suited to the task of allowing traffic enforcement to measure speed in a way that minimizes advanced alerting to other drivers who operate a radar detector while providing the tracking history in accordance with IACP guidelines.

However in so far as being able to detect brief glimpses of radar, it matters a lot.

Quick-trigger, is a term applied to radar operators who operate instant-on radar in a manner that amounts to about 500ms (or 0.5 seconds). Generally performed by radar operators using hand-held guns, like POP it is intended to outwit radar detectors.

While not necessarily providing the tracking history required, some (particularly younger) officers operate their radar using quick-triggering instant-on, others (generally older and more experienced) officers tend to operate instant-on (or constant-on) in a manner that is more in accordance with IACP guidelines (requiring a tracking history and therefore additional transmission time to obtain that history).

The ability of a radar detector alone to save you from a quick-triggering as you are being targeted is no different than being the only car subjected to even longer durations of instant-on when you are the only vehicle on the road.

The value of a radar detector in alerting to, what I believe, this most lethal form of police radar is not when you are being targeted, it is when another vehicle ahead of you is being targeted and your radar detector is alerting to that fact.

The value then becomes you don't have to worry about out-braking such an encounter as you have already been afforded the additional time to gradually (and more safely) adjust your speed because you already know he is there.

That is the value of a quick radar detector over a slow(er) one, regardless of its sensitivity or long-range detection ability (to constant-on or longer-pulled instant-on) and its (relative) quietness.

There are instances when a downstream radar detector can get a brief glimpse of instant-on radar (or even constant-on radar) which amounts to a similar situation to being exposed to a quick-trigger instant-on encounter.

This routinely happens from reflections that occur for brief periods of time (around curves) or from other moving vehicles (or stationery objects when you are in motion) which are portions of the original radar beam (regardless of its original transmission duration).

So the question becomes: is it worth having a quieter (ie; slower and/or more heavily filtered) radar detector that doesn't provide advanced alerting to such encounters?

From my perspective, it's the balance that matters.

That's what I appreciate about Whistler's approach to the design of their radar detectors. They've got balancing, and the fact they give the user the choice of what that balance is (filter, filter 1, and filter 2) and the Beltronics approach with their Beltronics STi-R (R.I.P.) that provided additional performance, by way of user-selectable band-segmentation and reduced filter processing overhead or delay, and of course, Valentine Research, for what they have always been and continue to do (ie; Valentine's continuous evolution and refinement of that balance).

It's really a simple matter of personal preference (and choice): risk versus reward.

I certainly wouldn't choose to belittle or denigrate someone (or group) personally for choosing, accepting, or even questioning a different balance.

Happy and Safe Motoring.

©2009 Veil Guy. All Rights Reserved. No Portion May be Reproduced Without Expressed Consent.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What Makes the Best Radar Detector, the Best?

best radar detector

What Makes the Best Radar Detector, the Best?

Updated: 23 Apr 14, By Veil Guy

With the announcement of the Escort Redline—designed to directly compete with the Valentine 1 on its own terms—I think it is prudent to discuss what design attributes contribute to making the best radar detector, the best, in terms of overall performance.

For the purposes of this analysis, we are not including a radar detector's feature-set as part of the our consideration.

Seven Key Radar Detection Performance Attributes:
  • Sensitivity
  • Selectivity
  • Alert to Brief Radar Detections
  • Quick Alert to Radar Detections
  • Dynamic Range
  • Signal Ramp
  • Metering Type
Best Radar Detector Design Attribute #1, Sensitivity: The ability of the radar detector to sniff out the weakest of radar signals.

With higher sensitivity, a radar detector has the potential to alert its owner to an impending radar encounter sooner and farther away than a radar detector possessing lower sensitivity (ie; potentially provides greater detection range but not necessarily greater alerting range subject to the other design elements like selectivity).

Sensitivity is primarily a function of the hardware design/platform.

Extremely high Sensitivity Alerting to Cross Highway Radar Usage

The following elements are more a function of the software design (ie;firmware).

Best Radar Detector Design Attribute #2, Selectivity: The ability of the radar detector to discard (not alert) to detected radar signals having been determined as not posing a threat to the driver.

Selectivity is an element that sometimes is in direct conflict with sensitivity. In other words, trying to make a radar detector highly selective may very well undermine the otherwise high levels of sensitivity. Detected Ka signals can be examined by the radar detector so that it can be determined if the detected signal is a harmonic of another proximate radar detector's LO and if so, not reported. Detection of X and K band gets trickier for selectivity because they appear as bona-fide X and K-band sources.

Best Radar Detector Design Attribute #3, Alert to Brief (and/or Weak) Radar Detections: The ability of a radar detector to alert to the detection of brief sources of radar—especially weak signals—and can be considered part of the overall design element of selectivity, but also relates to the radar detector's alerting texture/signal ramp behavior (discussed later).

Some design approaches to increasing selectivity (to make the detector quieter) may be the requiring of brief detections of radar signal to be present for a finite amount of time before alerting to them. If this time exceeds the duration of certain quick trigger instant-on radar sources, the radar detector—even if it possess very high-degrees sensitivity, may altogether fail to alert which can make the detector quiet(er) but more lethargic/slower and negatively impact the ability of the radar detector to alert well to an approaching instant-on trap including the conveyance of the texture of the approaching threat.

An Example of Extremely Quick Alerting to Brief/Weak Traffic Radar

Conveyance of Texture to Approaching Instant-on Stationery Radar Threat

Best Radar Detector Design Attribute #4, Quick Alert to Radar Detections: The ability of a radar detector to quickly alert to a detected radar signal—and can be considered part of the overall design element of selectivity, but also relates to the radar detector's alerting texture/signal ramp behavior (discussed later).

Also in terms of quickness and selectivity there is generally a finite amount of time it takes to wait before alerting to see the radar signal present. A radar detector which requires a larger finite amount of time before alerting to a radar source can also contribute to a slower (ie; sluggish) detector.

Balancing these four elements (one hardware and three software) is critical with whatever hardware platform design.

A radar detector possessing very high degrees of sensitivity with lower levels of selectivity has the potential of becoming excessively chatty around town—while potentially providing stellar performance on the open highway. The Valentine 1, in its default configuration tends to emphasize sensitivity over selectivity as its design philosophy and falls into this category.

An otherwise highly sensitive radar detector which emphasizes being quiet while still possessing high degrees of absolute sensitivity must balance the other three design elements to some degree in achieving that level of relative quietness but may sacrifice alerting performance in certain type of encounters as a consequence but be much easier to live with in and around town. Current detectors like the Escort Passport 9500ix or the Beltronics GX-65 may fall in this category.

Detectors which posses somewhat lower levels of absolute sensitivity also possess the potential ability to be quieter just by the nature of their decreased levels of sensitivity without potentially having to rely as heavily on software designs of selectivity.

In fact, it is possible that a detector which possesses a somewhat lower level of absolute sensitivity may be able to relax or tweak the other design elements contributing to selectivity to produce a very capable radar detector in its own right. Top detectors from Whistler like the Whistler XTR-695SE, Whistler XTR-690SE, Whistler Pro-78SE fall into this category.

Quick Alerting to Instant-on Radar Signal

Best Radar Detector Design Attribute #5, Dynamic Range: A detector's dynamic range relates its signal-ramp and how it alerts to varying signal strengths with whatever sensitivity it has.

Just because a radar detector has high(er) sensitivity doesn't mean that it (must) alert at a high(er) indicated signal strength than another model (with relatively lower sensitivity) which alerts at a lower signal strength at the same range. In and of itself, the signal strength level indicated at any given distance should not be considered a reflection of how sensitive it is at that distance. This is performance attribute has been repeteadly mis-characterized in certain reviews concerning radar detection performance as it relates to sensitivity at varying ranges.

A radar detector with too high a dynamic range can have a difficult time conveying the severity of an impending radar threat because its signal strength will not alert at its maximum level when it needs to. An example of a radar detector with this behavior is the Cobra XRS-9955/Cobra XRS-9960G.

A detector with too low (ie; compressed) dynamic range can also have a difficult time at conveying the severity of an impending radar threat because it may tend to alert at its maximum signal strength when the approaching radar threat isn't eminent. A radar detector with this behavior is the Escort Passport 9500ci , Escort Passport 9500i, or Escort Passport 9500ix, and the original Beltronics STi Driver.

A Contrast in Management of Dynamic Range

In either circumstance the alerting nature may compromise the ability of the driver to properly gauge an approaching (or receding threat).

An Example of a Radar Detector with Too Wide of Dynamic Range

Best Radar Detector Design Attribute #6, Signal Ramp: Relating to dynamic range is the detector's ability to alert with a alerting/alarm strength level (audible and/or visual) at any given distance from the radar source (ie; its approach and departure slope).

A Comparison of Several Different Sloping Signal Ramps

While it may be true to infer that one—of two identically built radar detector models—which alerts with a higher signal strength than the other may be more sensitive than the other, this inference would certainly not apply across two different models or brands.

In other words, radar detector A which alerts at a signal strength of say 7 at a given distance is not necessarily more sensitive than radar detector B which only alerts with a signal strength of 4 at the same distance. In fact, if the distance is sufficiently large from the radar source, detector B may be providing a more accurate gauge with its alert, as the following chart demonstrates.

Two different alert signal ramps, one easy to gauge threat level, one hard

The above chart demonstrate two different signal ramps as reported by two different sloping detectors, the first being more natural analogue-sinuous slope and the other being less natural and more digital-like a square-wave slope. I would argue that the first signal-ramp does a better job at conveying the actual threat at any given distance and time than the second one.

Several radar detectors that fall into the sinuous sloping signal ramp profile are the Valentine 1, the Escort Passport 8500/8500 X50, Beltronics Pro RX-65, and Whistler XTR-695SE/690SE/Pro-78SE.

Several radar detectors that tend towards a more square-wave-type sloping signal ramp profile are the Escort Redline(on X & K-bands), Escort Passport 9500i/9500ix, Escort Passport 9500ci, and Beltronics STi-R, and the pre-band segmented Redlines.  (Updated: 6 JUL 13).

Best Radar Detector Design Attribute #7, Metering Type: Closely related to dynamic range (and therefore signal-ramp) is quickness to alert to rapidly varying radar detection levels.

If a detector is sluggish in this performance aspect, then the rapidity of the increasing threat may not be able to be properly assessed by the driver which may adversely affect the response time of the driver. This design attribute can also have an effect on the decaying nature of a rapidly decreasing or removed radar source (ie; trigger-released).

A Demonstration of the Relative Quickness Between Different Metering Systems

To use an analogy from hifi equipment, if you ever used a cassette recorder to establish appropriate recording levels (not too low and not too high) you would have had to use its metering system. There were two types, one (VU or average-type) was generally available in lower-end mass-produced consumer products. The other metering system (peak-type) was available only on a couple (very) high-end cassette decks.

The quicker peak-type metering system (like those used on the Tandberg TD-3014A) were much more useful in establishing the correct recording level without risk of clipping (ie; over-modulation of the recorded signal onto the tape).

Example of Norwegian Made TD-3014A Peak (ie; Quick) Metering System, what I considered the best of three decks ever made including Nakamichi Dragon, Studer Revox B215

Example of typical average (ie; sluggish) metering system with same music track as previous video example

Radar detectors that exhibit peak-type (ie; quick) metering systems include the Whistler XTR-690/695SE and Pro-78SE and Valentine 1.

Radar detectors that possess overall good management of dynamic range and its related elements (ie; provide good signal ramp) include the Whistler XTR-690SE, XTR-695SE, Pro-78SE, Valentine 1, Escort Passport 8500/8500 X50, Beltronics Pro RX-65.

It is my assertion that for a radar detector to be considered one of the best, it must nicely balance all of these different (and sometimes competing) performance attributes.

Happy and Safe Motoring!

Veil Guy

©2009 Veil Guy. All Rights Reserved. No Portion May be Reproduced Without Expressed Consent.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Valentine 1 versus Escort Redline Review, Part II

escort redline versus valentine 1

Valentine 1 versus Escort Redline Review Part II

The "rivalry" that has existed between these two leading radar detector manufacturers (Escort and Valentine) goes back quite a while.

Yes, there have been legions in both camps, to be sure.

Each passionate about their particular shared-principles. Each defining the other (often in destructive terms). Each, at times, trying to proselytize members of the other. Each seeing the other, often, in terms of black and white.

Similar conflicts have existed in history. Israeli versus Arab (essentially a long-standing family-feud between two cousins) a conflict (of Biblical proportion) that has, unfortunately come at great expense for all sides and, at times, appears to have no end in sight.

On a somewhat smaller scale, was the Hatfield versus McCoy feud, a generational inter-family bloody conflict, but one that recently came to a peaceful end when better-minds finally prevailed.

Certainly they're have been other conflicts (and casualties) often starting, in history, from one closely-knit singular origin.

So too, have "conflicts" unfolded, in this small industry of radar detection countermeasures (ie; radar detectors) including those between the legions dedicated to using the Valentine 1 products and those legions dedicated to using Escort/Beltronics products.

Now that Escort has made the decision to take on the Valentine 1 on its own terms with their new Escort Redline model, I think it is prudent to keep the following things in mind as we go forward from this point in time.

The following is a collection of posts (which I trust has been received as being balanced and fair to both Valentine and Escort) about the Valentine 1 versus Escort Redline debate that is now just beginning to unfold online, even before the Escort Redline is shipping.

The purpose of this blog post: to help a maintain a sense of civility, logic, reason, and illumination for the new dynamic in the marketplace that the Escort Redline creates (instead of simply fanning the flames of heat and confrontation using the same old-tired arguments).

I believe we have arrived at a seminal moment in this industry's 30-year (young) history.

Post #1 (RD.NET):

...talking philosophically about these two titans (the Valentine 1 and the Escort Redline).

What VR "should do or not do" (in response). or what the Redline "needs to do..."

I have a different take than perhaps some of you guys may

Again, I'll use a car analogy, because I am a car guy at heart.

The Porsche 911 (which I equate to the V1) is and always has been a pure driving sports car at its core.

Does it really matter that the Audi R8 is on the scene now? Sure there will be cross-overs to be sure, but in the scheme of things, does the 911 have to change as a result? I would argue no.

People will [continue to] gravitate to the 911 (the V1) for what it is and what it remains. Others may opt for the R8 (dare I say the Redline?).

I'll use another analogy, photographic equipment.

My sister shoots a Canon 20D and has all of the lenses for it. I happen to shoot Nikon and have a sizable historical investment in the Nikon experience. For the longest time the Canon 1Ds was the bomb then the Mark II, and then the Mark III all the while Nikon remained (in the proverbial stone-ages for years without a direct response to Canon) when it came to image sensors.

The similarities [to these detectors] are actually pretty close, IMO. With Canon you have a large multi-faceted company. With Nikon, you have a much smaller and focused company.

Did I jump ship to Canon because of its latest high-tech multi-pixel full-frame sensors? No, I stayed with the Nikon for what it was to me.

Now, it so happens that after many years of being perceived (perhaps in reality) behind, they finally came out with their D3 and then the follow-on D3X that are currently the-end-all-be-all with image quality. At the same time Canon ups the equation (for some) with HD video.

What to do? For me, I am going to stick with Nikon for what they are and not switch to Canon (for what they [Nikon] are not).

I think the very same thing holds for the V1 vs Redline, debate.

From my vantage point, I am happy that both are available both for the V1's sake and the Redline's (as well as Nikon and Canon). I don't necessarily believe that it has to be an either or ("winner" take-all) situation.

Post #2 (RD.NET):

...On referring to the relative strengths of each of these two titans (Valentine Research and Escort).

I tend to agree both sets are worthy ideals in their own rights.

Escort does indeed (has indeed tried) to address both (potentially competing) dynamics and I applaud them (and Beltronics) for even attempting to do so even as they evolve their technology over time to the better.

Again, to use a car analogy (this time with tires).

I trust we could all agree that the V1 (and now perhaps the Redline) fall under the category of Maximum Performance Summer Tires.

Other products from Beltronics and Escort have tried to provide high levels of grip (as it were) of an Ultra Performance All-Season Tire while at the same time be usable in a greater number of environments.

Like Michelin, Pirelli, Bridgestone/Firestone and all other tire makers that have diverse lines it may be relatively (easier) to build and all out ba##s to the wall maximum grip performance tire in the dry weather (and maybe even wet).

However, it becomes a much more herculean task to try to provide a tire than can do all this AND provide maximum grip in the snow. Why? Because the dynamics are in conflict.

What makes a snow tire grip so well in the snow is it's ability to keep the snow packed together within the tread design.

With a dry/wet maximum performance tire (which has different tread patterns and materials) maximum grip is achieved by channeling away the water as quickly as possible (ie; conflicting dynamics to the dry/wet tire).

That's the challenge that Beltronics and Escort have undertaken and their advanced products show just how far they have come in this regard (and it is a great thing really for all of us).

But, this doesn't change what the V1 has always been (so no need to (re)argue the virtues of each for they do different things).

Escort's announcement of the Redline means to me that they're simply offering a product now in the High Performance Maximum Performance Tire category. Nothing more, nothing less.

My only thing was that by doing this, let's keep the record straight for what the V1 has been all along, a product of the Maximum Performance Tire Category and the comparisons in the past (and many reviews) weren't really fair to the Valentine (when it was presumed to perform as the proverbial all-season tire that it was not). Comparing the V1 to all of the others was comparing apples to oranges as they were really products in two different categories. That's my primary objective with this thread, to clearly resolve this conundrum (for some). In other words, stop knocking the V1 for being what it is and don't expect it to perform like a high-performance all-season.

Now, if one want's Valentine to build a high-performance all-season, we'll that's a choice for them to make. Perhaps if enough people ask them, they will see the economic incentive to do so. But do they really need to? What's wrong with them simply evolving their Maximum Performance Summer Tires for those that want Maximum Performance Summer Tires?

What car magazine rates Maximum Performance Summer Tires directly to All Seasons?

Generally it's the other way around (ie; How well can an all-season can perform like a maximum performance summer tire).

While I personally own Maximum Performance Summer Tires for my Vette, I too have an All-Season Michelin PS2 for my Bimmer.

Each serving a different purpose. So it is with [these] radar detectors. Nothing more, nothing less.

Which tires (detector(s)) do you choose to drive with?

For me, when it snows, I know with which [kind] I'd rather be driving around town...and when it's sunny, as for the open interurban highway.

As we go forward now with two minimalistic uber-performing windshield-mount radar detectors, I hope the better angels of our nature, will prevail.

Peace in the South Dakota Badlands (Photo Courtesy: Speed Trap Hunter)

Related Reading:
Veil Guy

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Escort Redline versus Valentine One Reviews: End to a Long Debate?

veilguy's escort redline vs. valentine one debate

Escort Redline vs Valentine One Review: Both Stellar Performers

 Updated: 07-08-13:

Escort Redline versus Valentine One Review

Updated Escort Redline Gets Advanced Feature Set visit Escort Redline Review.

Escort Redline Raw Sensitivity versus Potentially "Higher" False Rates

I think it is going to be very interesting to see how the new Escort Redline ($499) is going to look to some [other] reviewers when historically the Valentine One ($399)—which also has possessed high sensitivity levels (and coupled with very quick response times) but [came with] higher "false" alerts as a consequence—has been historically hammered [by] some reviewers for its uber-sensitive behavior(s).

If, as I expect, the new Escort Redline will perform in the same vein ("vain") as the venerable Valentine One (but with potentially even higher sheer [radar detection] performance), it will mean that the Escort Redline will most certainly be a very significant and exciting product (a departure, really) from Escort, however, I believe the Passport Redline has the potential to create a sort of a conundrum for some of these [same] reviewers who have historically been critical of the Valentine One for the same type of performance (although to its credit, Escort has been very clear about its intended behavior and purpose).

I believe this is going to be very interesting to see how this plays out online, will there be moral clarity/consistency, or not?

If the Escort Passport Redline, is praised for its high raw performance even while it comes with a higher level of potential "falsing" then what does it mean for all the historical reviews of the Valentine One which have historically criticized the V1 for possessing the same type (or similar) behavior to radar sources (from bonafide police radar and not)?

I, for one, have always appreciated what the Valentine One is/has been and its design approach philosophically and I welcome Escort's decision to offer a windshield-mount radar detector possessing potentially the same philosophical design elements while remaining (myself) entirely consistent on this matter.

Here's are just two examples of the inconsistencies that have existed with some other reviews.

For a long-time, the Valentine One was the most expensive windshield-mount radar detector (although its price point has stayed unchanged at $399). Reviewers have always hammered the V1 on its high price...that was until Escort and Beltronics started introducing products that were priced even higher. Do you recall reading any reviews about those products being excessively priced? I don't recall seeing them.

Remember the review calling the V1 the "chicken-little" of radar detectors and the subsequent references to that review from Automobile Magazine? Are you catching my drift? How about the notions of the V1 as being a "noisy" and "old" radar detector compared to the "latest" [quiet] model like the Passport 9500ix.

Having journalistic integrity is more important to me than winning any popularity contest from my readers or from the manufacturers (whose products) I review, no matter what price I may have paid for having that conviction.

If, indeed, the Escort Passport Redline may finally put to rest this long-raging (longest and most passionate?) debate in our very small industry (although laser detection performance will very likely remain a decided win in Valentine's favor) with both the manufacturers and their [very] passionate group of consumers, it will still not detract from my appreciation and respect for what I believe has been one of the most purely designed pieces of consumer electronics for nearly two decades, the V1.

Cool Runnings, Peace be da Journey...

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Escort Redline: Extreme Escort Redline Performance in a Windshield-Mount

escort redlineEscort Redline Windshield-Mount Radar Detector

New Escort Redline Radar Detector Officially Announced Today by Escort

Escort Redline Radar Detector

Updated: 06/01/2013

Update: Escort has recently released an improved version of the Escort Redline.

Given Escort's public announcement of the up-and-coming Escort Redline radar detector, I am heartened to report that the Escort Redline radar detector will be all about performance with an emphasis on no-holds-barred sensitivity and (I hope) quickness to alerting and a de-emphasis on being heavily filtered (to reduce falses).

It sounds like the new Escort Redline model will finally unlock the potential of the RDD-undetectable M3 platform (the same used in the Beltronics STi Driver, Passport 9500ci, and Beltronics STi-R models) in a windshield-mount.

But, beware, this is not your father's Escort.

While the Escort brand (with the exception of their blistering $1600 Escort Passport 9500ci custom installed remote) has historically placed an emphasis on being the quietest (but still highly sensitive) radar detectors (as most recently manifested in the Escort Passport 9500ix), Escort appears to have finally given the "red-meat" to those asking for Passport 9500ci-like performance, but in a windshield-mount with the Escort Redline.

Generally, this is something that has been historically accomplished by the sister company Beltronics brand with the models like the venerable Beltronics STi Driver and, of course, the Beltronics STi-R custom remote radar detectors.

I am pleased that with the Escort Redline, Escort customers will now have a viable alternative to the otherwise Escort Passport 9500ix (a radar detector with an emphasis on filtering and being quiet).

Now I am waiting for the addition of two things, GPS capability (for photo detection and variable sensitivity) and Shifter ZR4 interfacing capability.

I still believe that model would be the ultimate windshield-mount radar detector.

I trust, in time, we'll see that model, as well.

Once we get our hands on a production version of this new Redline detector, we'll follow-up with a detailed and thorough review, as always.

In the meantime, it appears that with the Escort Redline, extreme performance appears to be finally coming in a small package...but again, this radar detector won't be for everyone. You have received your warning.

Gentlemen (and ladies), start your engines, the REDLINE is coming, the REDLINE is coming!

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Photo Enforcement Safety Benefits: Separating Fact from Fiction

Speed Camera Photo Enforcement

Photo Enforcement Safety Benefits: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction (Part II)

Evaluation of the Executive Summary of the Report Entitled, Evaluation of the City of Scottsdale's Loop 101 Photo Enforcement Program, Draft Summary.

Updated: 28 JUL 09, 1840EST

In my previous blog post, I laid the groundwork and context for this series of related posts.

In this part, I look at the Executive Summary of the preliminary analysis results of the fixed speed-enforcement camera demonstration program (SEP) that was "conducted" on Arizona State Route 101 (a.k.a. Loop 101) during the period of January 2006 through October 2006 (a duration of approximately 10 months).

The stated purpose of this "evaluation "program was to quantify the following five elements:
  • The impact of the SEP (photo enforcement program) on speeding detections (76mph or faster)
  • The impact of the SEP (photo enforcement program) on average speeds
  • The effect of the SEP (photo enforcement program) on traffic safety (ie; motor vehicle crashes)
  • The expected economic costs and benefits of the SEP (photo enforcement program)
  • The financial public perception impacts of the program
The "evaluation" was administered (but not conducted) by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) and utilized data from a variety of sources, namely the Arizona Department of Public Safety (for crash report data), ADOT itself (for data, traffic volume, and speed data), the Arizona Crash Outcome Data Evaluation Systems (for crash data and crash costs), the National Highway [Traffic] Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Redflex (for detection rates and traffic speeds).

In essence, the vendor standing to benefit most from a "favorable" outcome of this "evaluation" program, was Redflex itself. Does this sound a bit like asking the proverbial fox to guard the hen house?

OK. Here is where the fun begins.

The evaluation program was to look at four key time periods:
  • The before SEP (photo enforcement program) period
  • The SEP (photo enforcement program) warning period, only warnings issued to drivers
  • The SEP (photo enforcement program) violation period, actual citations issued to drivers
  • The after SEP (photo enforcement program) period, system no longer utilized during evaluation study
The Scottsdale SEP program employed 6 speed cameras on a 6.5 mile section of Loop 101 within the city limits of Scottsdale.

Now keep in mind the primary objective of the SEP program was to assess potential safety and cost benefits (of reduced speeding detections) in terms of an assumed consequence of overall reduction of crash and injury rates.

The very periods likely to have the highest rates of crashes (particularly multi-vehicle accidents or MVAs) or associated injuries are periods of high vehicle density, like those during morning and evening rush-hours, for obvious reasons.

Would you be surprised if I told you that those periods were specifically left out of the speed detection portion of the program?

The reason? Simple.

The report itself stated that during peak-hour traffic, speeds were constrained by congestion, and therefore it was highly unlikely that high speeds (defined as an excess of 11mph over the PSL of 65) were even possible!

For this "reason" speed data were discarded or not measured. In other words, the times when crashes were potentially at their highest rates, speeding could have not be a direct causation factor, but other dynamics were more likely to be, such as excessive traffic density, driver inattentiveness, poor vehicle maintenance, and/or inadequate highway engineering designs.

I find this a remarkable admission.

I suspect had that data been included, the overall "beneficial effects" of "reduced crash rates" as a they were related to speed (ie; the positive effects of the SEP program) would be have been futher marginalized.

For convenience and for the sake of Redflex being able to call their program a "success," speed data from the most dangerous periods were completely ignored! Furthermore, the report stated that empirical data sets were either extremely limited or completely non-existent.

To make up for these deficits of real empirical and concrete (independently generated) data, the "authors" instead relied upon limited data (from another section of the highway and not even in the city limits of Scottsdale!) and the reliance on complex statistical models, instead, the kind that only individuals with Ph.Ds would use.

By using data from an entirely different portion of the highway and with a reliance on "hocus-pocus" math, the underlying integrity of the report's conclusions was severely undermined.

As if this wasn't enough...

Even with the limited data and the massaged statistical analyses, their findings suggested an increase (33%) of rear-end type multi-vehicle (MVA) crash-rates (not at all surprising considering the unsafe dynamics these photo enforcement systems create, such as "traffic porpoising"), though the report also suggested a somewhat paradoxical finding that the related injuries were reduced (by 12.57%).

In reality, one would expect injuries associated with such crash-type (along with offset or head-on collisions) to be of the most serious nature (ie; spinal/neck).

The executive summary also suggested that increases in these rear-end crash types were swapped for decreases in other types (ie; potentially less severe ones). In plain english, this meant the crash reductions did not necessarily occur, but different (ie; more severe) crash types, did.

I find this an even more remarkable admission.

However, the report did indicate that this comparison of the program evaluation periods to the "before program periods" did not consider other factors that could have or would have accounted for the varying accident rates observed or calculated, such as weather or other roadway conditions (like construction zones or lane restrictions).

Even with its limited amount of concrete empirical data, the report basically concluded that the SEP program reduced average speeds by approximately 9.5 mph, during its implementation.

Now that may sound like a lot until one one considers that highway posted limits should be set to the 85th percentile of speed (according to ITE engineering standards).

Therefore, if Loop 101 had a more appropriate posted limit of 70mph or 75mph (again, only obtainable during non-peak times), then these "speed detection reductions" would have be entirely irrelevant.

Stated another way, it appears to me that the SEP program only confirmed that the appropriate PSL (posted speed limit) should be raised in accordance with normal traffic flow rates (and that it remains 5mph to 10mph too low).

The report's executive summary of the SEP report does "come clean" in certain respects:
  • The "results" were based on small and incomplete [data] samples. (ie; insufficient data)
  • The "results" were based upon incomplete time (ie; insufficient time where random fluctuations of crash were common and could have influenced the results substantially)
  • Crash result trends were made at another site and crash data was used from high-peak periods (ie; rush-hour) even though speed detections were ignored for same periods.
Another interesting golden nugget suggested in the executive summary of this preliminary report of the 101 Loop SEP evaluation program was the admission that the highway of Scottsdale 101 (Loop 101) was already statistically safer to drive than other highways throughout the country!

Perhaps, this was the report's most remarkable admission for several reasons.

This acknowledgment, suggests the obvious: that speed, in-and-of-itself, is/was not a major contributor to highway crash or injury rates or has a limited adverse impact on overall highway safety.

Why would a city that was being actively lobbied at the time by Redflex and/or ATS conduct such a test [for/with] these very same companies who were (at the same time) forecasting huge potential profits from 'exploitation' of the marketplace?

Why would the findings (ie; conclusions) from this preliminary report be used to drive legislative policy nearly two years before the final report was to see the light of day?

Answer (to both questions): Follow the money.

How the SEP could be described as an "unqualified" success (by others not financially connected to its findings) would be a bit of a stretch.

How the report concluded (as it did later) that an increase of 33% in rear-end crashes as a result of the SEP was a "negligible" increase and an "equitable" exchange for less-severe accidents, would be a bit more than a bit of stretch.

That's enough analysis for now, because if you are like me, your head may dizzy from all the spin.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Intelligent Transportation Systems' Safety Benefits: Separating Truth from Falsehood

Privacy and due-process robbing technology saturating the streets of greater Phoenix, Arizona metro area administered by for-profit industry.

Intelligent Transportation Systems' Safety Benefits: Separating Truth from Falsehood (Part I)

Updated: 28 JUL 09, 1845EST

I have long considered covering this extended and complex topic with my readers, but as it has been a challenging and time consuming task, especially when one considers how much reading and fact-checking is required, as such, it has taken longer than I had originally anticipated.

Nonetheless, I will attempt to do this subject matter justice, not just because of the high-degree of misinformation generally surrounding such studies (often by design of the publishers) but also because their objectives are routinely politically and/or economically motivated.

One Huge Benefit of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ie; Photo Enforcement Programs) is Money from your Pocket into Theirs.

My goal is to truthfully answer questions about the supposed safety and economic benefits raised by certain government sanctioned reports of Automated Photo Enforcement Systems (mis-labeled as Intelligent Transportation Systems).

I am going to start this series with a look at one particular "feasibility study" undertaken by RedFlex, the Arizona Department of Transportation, the City of Scottsdale, and the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering of Arizona State University with Simon Washingtion, Ph.D (and two of his colleagues: Kangwon Shin & Ida Van Shalkwyk).

There are two reports connected with this study (formally called the SEP or Safety Enforcement Program). The first is a preliminary report which then later became the second and final report.

For the purposes of this post, I will focus on the initial report entitled, "Evaluation of the City of Scottsdale Loop 101 Photo Enforcement Demonstration Program: Draft Summary Report" which was originally dated January 11th, 2007, a report that can no longer be found online. Fortunately, we kept a copy as it originally appeared.

To appreciate the context of this preliminary/summary report and for the brief analysis that follows you should know that Scottsdale Arizona has long-served as a photo-enforcement friendly city (as does the entire state of Arizona). For more than a decade the state has served as host to two of the largest private and for-profit photo-enforcement companies, American Traffic Systems (ATS) and foreign-owned Australia-based company, Redflex.

Both of them have a rich and long history of lobbying government legislatures while at the same time forecasting explosive revenue (ie; sales) growth for both red light camera and speed camera enforcement to their investors.

It's also important to understand that for the purposes of ADOT's (Arizona Department of Transportation) and Scottsdale's photo enforcement exercise (SEP evaluation), much of the underlying data used (to drive the reports' conclusions) were provided by Redflex, the vendor financially benefiting from the program study.

For the sake of report integrity the data should have been independently measured and tabulated by those skilled-in-the-art and whom have little or no financial stake in the outcome.

This fundamental lapse of integrity is why at the core of the SEP, the subsequent reports' findings as well those diluted summaries which followed (used to promote such systems elsewhere), the results and conclusions proferred were fatally flawed.

I'll begin discussing/dissecting the accuracy of the preliminary report by first examining it's initial disclaimer (emphasis is mine as is text in yellow.):

The contents of the report reflect the views of the authors who are responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. (This is a false claim for the underlying data was collected and presented by Redflex itself.). The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Arizona Department of Transportation or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. (Indeed, the "conclusions" of this preliminary report did, in fact, precipitate state-wide legislative and regulatory supporting efforts, not just those of the City of Scottsdale). Trade or manufacturers' names which may appear herein are cited only because they are considered essential to the objectives of the report. (The objectives of Redflex and ATS were and continue to be the successful lobbying of these very same legislative and regulatory bodies for the support of their company's products and services with huge monetary inducements[a.k.a. glorified kickbacks] in the form of what amounts to an unconstitutional tax on motorists) The U.S. Government and the State of Arizona do not endorse products or manufacturers. (This claim is entirely false, as the data provided and the objectives of the report(s) are to increase the use of RedFlex's and/or American Traffic Solutions' products and services).

Just in the preliminary report's initial disclaimer, every statement was factually inaccurate.

Now compare this disclaimer to Redflex's own "statements" in their financial report from the same period.

Redflex outlines a strategic plan to influence the legislative process.

Is it coincidence that the local city which hosts their Redflex's U.S. corporate-headquarters has undertaken such a SEP evaluation study during the same time Redflex is actively lobbying and selling their products and services? Answer: Absolutely Not.

Note top two priorities are directly tied to declining operating budgets and increased deficits (ie; tax-revenue shortfalls) to see how these studies are largely economically and politically driven (ie; there's the kickback to the politicians and the definition of their growing demographic, the U.S. taxpayer).

Unfortunately, the report's distortions/inaccuracies didn't stop there.

In future posts, I will continue dissect more of this preliminary report and the related one that followed well as the derivatives that continue to float around various government agencies and industry trade groups. When we're finished, you'll have a better sense about how safe these photo enforcement systems really are and what really are the underlying motivations behind their deployment, not only in Scottsdale but elsewhere, as well.

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