Monday, January 05, 2009

Escort C65: A High Performance Radar Detector for the Masses

Escort C65 looks like a black-version of the Beltronics RX65

Escort C65: A High Performance Radar Detector for the [Shopping] Masses

If ever there was an argument to be made about a product being produced by the "Belscort" company, the new $349 Escort C65, is it.

The Escort C65 is a radar detector designed specifically for shopping at "club wholesalers" such as BJ's Wholesale Club, Costco, and Sam's Club. Escort has no current plans to provide the C65 through other retail/Internet sales channels (although the Escort C65 does appear on their own corporate website and could conceivably appear on these mass retailers' websites).

For those already familiar with the Beltronics line of radar detectors, you'll immediately recognize that the Escort C65 appears very similar to a Beltronics Pro RX65, only its case is black.

The Escort 65 is essentially a hybrid product of both Beltronics and Escort and is expected to provide performance levels similar to both companies' (now considered) mid-range (priced) level of radar detectors, such as the Escort Passport 8500 X50, Beltronics Vector 995, or Beltronics Pro RX65. All of course are very good.

The current top-windshield-mount models are the Beltronics GX65, Beltronics STi Driver, and Escort Passport 9500ix.

It appears to me that by creating another model that doesn't include the name Passport in it, Escort is attempting to minimize [Passport] brand-erosion, while at the same time creating another sales distribution conduit for their [Escort-named] products (like Beltronics' Vector versus Beltronics Professional series), perhaps in the wake of Circuit City's recently declared bankruptcy (a large national Beltronics retailer).

I may be wrong, but it feels as though that could be a challenging task as the naming and appearance of the Escort C65 may confuse the consumer with Escort's or Beltronics' premium name-brands or may tend to blur the distinctions between each brand identity.

Perhaps it would have been better to refer to this new radar detector as a Cincinnati Microwave C65 by Escort, instead of an Escort C65.

I suspect Escort will rely on a sophisticated POP (point-of-purchase) display piece to convey the benefits/distinguishing characteristics of their new Escort 65 model as compared to other retail-packaged consumer-level radar detectors available at generalized large chain retailers.

I can only imagine some of the dialog one may hear at the electronics department of one of these stores. Perhaps it would go something like this:

Would-be consumer: Can the Escort C65 detect all 15 bands?

Wholesale club salesperson: Ah, I dunno...What's it say on the box?

Will such mass retailers adhere to an established MAP? What happens to "overstocks" if and when they should occur? What impact could a precipitous price drop or "blow-out" sale (by an otherwise unsuccessful mass-retailer) have on the overall lines of either Beltronics Professional or Escort Passport premium brands or their long-established specialized dealer networks?

Whether or not the Escort C65's launch will be successful for the long-term may largely depend on how well the these organizations understand such a product.

Radar detectors, especially higher-end models like the Escort C65, are very specialized versions of consumer electronics and consequently require a high-level of knowledge to sell effectively, best provided by specialized retailers, especially those models at a price point of the Escort C65 or beyond.

At this point, this particular Escort feels like it's more tactically than strategically positioned (and something that may have ultimately been better suited by the long-established and very fine Beltronics Vector series).

Online discussion:

Escort C65: A Radar Detector for the Shopping Masses

Veil Guy

Friday, January 02, 2009

MPH Ranger EZ: Ranging Directional Police Traffic Radar for the 21st Century

MPH Ranger EZ: Ranging Directional Police Traffic Radar for the 21st Century

It appears that the future of police radar traffic enforcement has finally arrived with the MPH Ranger® EZ, the first police traffic radar speed measurement device capable of simultaneously measuring both the speeds of and ranges to other vehicles on the roadways.

Although the technology has been around for a long time and I have heard over the years that police traffic radar manufacturers had been potentially developing radiolocation technology for traffic radar enforcement purposes, MPH is the first to successfully bring the technology to market and at a price point that is competitive with other manufacturers' traditional top-of-the-line police radar models.

Announced at the San Diego IACP Conference in November 2008, the MPH Ranger EZ is the first traffic radar that is capable of providing four key measurements simultaneously: speed and distance of the strongest target and speed and distance of the fastest target in either the opposite or same direction of travel.

The MPH Ranger EZ has been designed to overcome a long-standing "limitation" to police radar traffic enforcement and speed measurement—one that has since been effectively addressed by another traffic enforcement technology, police lidar. That limitation was the lack of an ability fo traffic radar to accurately identify the vehicle(s) responsible for the speed reading(s) displayed.

With conventional traffic radar on lightly to moderately traveled roads and/or at close range, this really isn't too much of a practical limitation. However, at greater distances and/or with a higher density of traffic, this limitation may be experienced by traffic radar operators as they must carefully visually determine which vehicle(s) are actually responsible for the speed(s) displayed.

In certain targeting scenarios, the radar operator may have to make an "educated guess" and it is possible that in certain special circumstances, the wrong vehicle could be selected by the officer, meaning some hapless individual could potentially and improperly be cited for speeding.

Since operators of police lidar specifically target one vehicle before the trigger-pull, the potential for mis-identification of a speeder with laser is substantially lower at the outset.

Historically, proper training and imposed distance limitations [by the courts] served to mitigate such circumstances, but with the Ranger EZ, MPH now offers a technical solution to this radar targeting dilemma.

And while police laser provides its own compelling solution to speed measurement traffic enforcement (especially during heavier traffic densities), it has two limitations that the MPH Ranger EZ does not:
  1. speed measurement with police lidar can only be made from a stationery position.
  2. speed measurement with police lidar can only be made one vehicle at a time.
With the MPH Ranger EZ, speed measurement can be made while the patrol vehicle is either stationery or moving, of either either opposite or same direction of traffic, and provides the measurement of multiple vehicles in the radar beam path.

MPH has developed their radiolocating technology (square-wave modulated, circularly polarized CW) to be either used at the ubiquitous and relatively inexpensive to produce K-band frequency (24.05-24.25 Ghz) as well as the wider and more expensive Ka-band (33.4-36.0Ghz) , but pending ultimate FCC approval, the MPH Ranger EZ will initially be available in low power K-band at a nominal frequency of 24.125Ghz, is expected to be readily detectable by radar detectors, and uses conventional doppler shifting to determine speeds as to conform to already approved methods of traffic radar operation.

Retail pricing has been established at $2900 for a dual (front and rear) antennae system—which places in the same field of other top-of-the-line models from Kustom, Stalker, and Decatur. Unlike the Stalker DSR 2X, the Ranger EZ is designed to operate on only the front or rear antenna one at a time, but not both and should therefore be a bit easier to operate effectively.

The effective range of the ranging system has been limited to 1000 yards. Anything beyond those distances will indicate that the officer needs to get closer to the target(s) before obtaining a speed lock which can be used to issue a traffic citation. This was done intentionally to conform to emerging procedural targeting guidelines.

The approximate range to both the strongest and fastest targets is indicated by two light indicators at the lower base of the control module at 100 yards resolution, but resolution can be further increased to just 10 yards with the LED display windows.

A novel safety feature afforded by the ranging ability of the MPH Ranger EZ is Officer Safety Alert™.

During a traffic stop the officer can set the unit to alert to rapidly approaching vehicles in close proximity that fail to adhere to the "Move Over, Slow Down" laws or guidelines.

If an approaching vehicle exceeds distance and speed thresholds preset by the officer, the Ranger EZ will alert with a loud and distinctive signal through the patrol vehicle's external speaker system. This feature alone can help ensure that an officer would be less susceptible to injury or death during a routine traffic stop due to inattentive driving of passing vehicles.

I suspect this feature alone could be worth the price of admission for departments wishing to ensure the safety of their traffic patrol force, during any type of traffic or emergency assistance stops, in a world where driver distraction and inattentiveness rates are at their all time high.

This novel feature may potentially serve a role at enhancing traffic safety at highway construction sites, school zones, school buses, busy redlight-controlled intersections , toll-booths, and pedestrian crosswalks—incorporated into radar drones.

The ranging and officer safety enhancing features of the Ranger EZ appear to be a much more practical and compelling alternative to the growing popularity of police laser than MPH's POP-enabled traffic radar units at bringing traffic radar enforcement into the 21st century.

Further reading including technical specifications of the MPH Ranger EZ can be found at the following:

MPH Ranger EZ: Ranging Directional Traffic Radar [pdf]

MPH Industries can be contacted at (888) 689-9222 and online at:

Online Discussion:

MPH Ranger EZ: Ranging Directional Traffic Radar Enforcement for the 21st Century Police Department

Veil Guy

Thursday, January 01, 2009

X-band Police Traffic Radar: Reports of its Demise, Greatly Exaggerated

MPH K-55 X-band Police Radar Unit (Photo Taken: 01 Jan 09)

MPH K-55, MPH Python II®, MPH Python III® X Band Radar Units in Service with Police and Traffic Enforcement

I recently received an email question from a reader of my blog asking me whether or not it was safe to turn off X-band detection in a radar detector since X-band radar was 'not being used any more' and since it only serves to make a radar detector 'false' more frequently.

Surprised at the certainty of the sender's statement that X-band police radar was no longer being used, I responded with a question of my own: What leads you to believe that X-band radar is no longer being used?

The response I received referred me to a page found at SpeedZones, specifically what was written in the summary section at the bottom of the page:

The last state to use X band radar guns was New Jersey. They took them out of service. Fifty of the fifty states use K or Ka band radar guns with forty-one (41) states standardizing on Ka band at the following frequencies: 33.8 GHz, 34.7 GHz, 35.5 GHz. The predominant frequency is 34.7 GHz. With 99.99% accuracy you will not encounter X band radar guns in the United States or Canada. Of the four American makers of radar guns, no one makes X band anymore.

Needless to say, I was surprised to be reading such authoritative commentary, especially since I frequently encounter X-band traffic radar while traveling through my neighboring state of New Jersey—the latest encounter ocurring just several weeks ago on NJ Highway 42 just north of the Atlantic City Expressway.

In fact during my last visit to Ohio, I too had encountered X-band on I-70 East of Columbus. I have also encountered X-band radar in other Southern states such as North Carolina and Mississippi during my participation in the FireBall Run cross-country rally, last year.

In each of these encounters, had X-band been disabled on any of my radar detectors, I would have potentially been subject to an unexpected and unpleasant traffic stop.

Just in case I had missed a recent development in New Jersey, I decided to spend a part of my New Year's day off by taking a quick trip up to Warren County (located in northwest NJ) and a NJ State Trooper barracks located close to I-78 to see for myself what the absolute current status of X-band usage was in the state of New Jersey.

This is what I found:

Of the 10 NJ state patrol vehicles parked (one with its engine running), 60% (six of 10) had radar units mounted inside, 100% (six out of six) of these units were MPH K55 X-band traffic radar units.

It seems that reports of X-band's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

MPH K55 X band Police Traffic Radar Unit (Photo Taken: 01 Jan 09)

A subsequent discussion with a senior on-duty state trooper confirmed what I already believed: that while police laser (lidar) offers distinct advantages to troopers monitoring speeds on heavily traveled highways and interstates, such as the adjacent I-78, MPH K-55 X band radar units still have a place for moving patrol vehicles especially on secondary highways and roads throughout New Jersey, particularly, given their faithful and reliable multi-decade record of service.

To be sure, Ka-band traffic radar is steadily making in-roads into New Jersey, especially with local municipalities (such as Hamilton County's Hammonton Twp. patrol vehicles), as is police laser (lidar).

But, it has only been recently that the New Jersey State Police have begun giving consideration to Ka-band as a reliable alternative to the tried-and-tested MPH K-55 X-band police radar unit.

In 2007 a test was undertaken, at the cost of $53,000, to determine the scientific reliability (and subsequent court admissibility) of Ka-band usage as a means of speed measurement and enforcement under varying weather conditions (Affect of Weather on the Performance of Ka-band Traffic Radar).

Perhaps one day X-band traffic radar will no longer be seen in states like New Jersey (and Ohio), but that day has not yet come and I was reminded by MPH Industries that X-band radar is still specified on the IACP's CPL and that there are plenty of MPH K-55, MPH Python II® and MPH Python III® X-band radars in service as of today.

MPH K55 X-band Radar Unit (Photo Taken: 01 Jan 09)

Upon further examination of the SpeedZone's summary paragraph, there appears to be more factual errors:

Inaccurate Statement #1: The last state to use X band radar guns was New Jersey.

Factually Correct Statement: as of 1 January 2009, New Jersey still deploys X-band radar. X-band which can also be found—in varying degree—in Ohio, North Carolina, Mississippi, Quebec among others.

Inaccurate Statement #2: They [New jersey] took them out of service.

Factually Correct Statement: Based-upon my empirical observations, this statement is 100% wrong.

Inaccurate Statement #3: Fifty of the fifty states use K or Ka band radar guns...

Factually Correct Statement: See #1

Inaccurate Statement #3: With 99.99% accuracy you will not encounter X band radar guns in the United States or Canada.

Factually Correct Statement: Based-upon my empirical observations, this statement is 100% wrong.

Inaccurate Statement #4: Of the four American makers of radar guns, no one makes X band anymore.

Factually Correct Statement: MPH continues to produce and offer X-band police radar with their latest MPH Python III®.

I am surprised to see that of the six sentences making up the first paragraph of SpeedZones' summary, that five of them are patently inaccurate.

I have a lot respect for what Speed Measurement Labs has done over the years, but in response to the question posed to me by my blog reader, I felt compelled to set the record straight for his benefit (and others who may be pondering the same question: whether or not to outright disable X band radar reception on their radar detector).

I am afraid that it is this kind of assertive thinking which may be contributing to the continued de-emphasis of X-band reception by the radar detector manufacturers with the majority of windshield-mount radar detectors (with some notable exceptions such as the Beltronics STi Driver and the Valentine 1).

By de-emphasizing X-band radar (and even K-band radar to some extent) sensitivity, certain radar detectors can simply and inexpensively be made "quieter" and less-prone to "falsing" (because they are less sensitive or slower to respond) as opposed to utilizing more advanced (and more expensive) filtering techniques, while maintaining higher degrees of sensitivity and quickness, such as the Auto Sensitivity modes of Beltronics and Escort—provided on certain of their high-end GPS-enabled radar detectors like the Beltronics GX65, Escort 9500ci, Escort 9500i, and Escort 9500ix models—which provide real-time variable sensitivity based upon actual vehicle speed and/or the ability to permanently lock-out known stationery locations of X band (and K band) falses.

There is one police radar band that I would certainly recommend leaving off—particularly if you drive throughout North America. That band is Ku radar.

Several years ago, around the time that Cobra was pronouncing their ability to detect 12 bands (Ku-band being one of them), there was a "claim" (also by SpeedZones) that Ku band was on its way to the U.S. (I even blogged this some years ago).

As it turned out Ku-band never did materialize even though [some of] the other radar detector manufacturers re-engineered several of their flagship radar detector models (at a not inconsequential expense) to play "catch-up" (if only in appearance) with Cobra's marketing-claim of the day.

Now Ku-band is a radar band that hasn't been produced for many years and I suspect that the number of Ku-band police radar units still in use today (throughout the entire world) is fewer than the number of X-band units currently operating in the state of New Jersey, alone. Furthermore, Ku band radar nor any police radar equipment operating with Ku-band doesn't appear on the IACP CPL of approved speed measurement devices.

To be clear: yes, as a percentage of overall radar encounters, X-band traffic radar will likely be small number (that is if you don't routinely drive in a state like New Jersey or Ohio), but I would strongly recommend that one be absolutely certain as to what forms of police radar are being used along one's individual driving route before disabling any one them completely.

As a driver who actually does use radar detectors to enhance driving safety, the last thing I would want another fellow radar detector user to do is disable reception to a band that could potentially prove hazardous to one's motor-vehicle abstract.

Happy New Year and Safe Motoring!

Veil Guy