Monday, January 17, 2011

Escort's Traffic Sensor Rejection (TSR) Filter: Why You May Really Need It

Escort's Traffic Sensor Rejection (TSR)
Eliminates Alerts from Roadway Traffic Sensors

An Increasingly Important Feature: Escort's Traffic Sensor Rejection (TSR) Filter

Updated: 23 Apr 14, By Veil Guy

I had been planning on doing an article on Escort's new Traffic Sensor Rejection (TSR) filtering feature—currently now available on both Escort and Beltronics radar detectors (and available as an update [for a fee] for those models that did not have it initially)— but like anything, sometimes things aren't always a priority, that is until they become one, by happenstance.

And that's exactly what happened to me last Sunday when, after a very long day of flying, I arrived in Los Angeles, CA and drove myself, in a rented Caddy to Ventura (about a hour north) for a business trip. For this trip I grabbed one of my V1s (to use for its superb laser sensitivity as a defense to CHP extensive use of lidar).

It was pretty late and I was quite fatigued, but cruising along nicely in the northbound lanes of Highway 101 when my V1 began alerting, at full strength, to repeated blasts of very strong instant-on (IO) K-band radar. My initial reaction, of course, was to nail my brakes, causing my large silver DTS to nose-dive precipitously. Had a vehicle been trailing behind me closely, it would have been in my front seat!

I immediately scanned my rear-view mirror for the culprit (as the alerts came from the rear), looking for the tell-tale signs of the headlights of a cruiser, while at the same time pulling out of the passing lane to the center lane. I couldn't identify any suspicious looking vehicle, so shortly thereafter, I pulled back out in the left lane to continue my brisk progress northward.

Just as I settled back into the comfort of the driver's seat, FULL BLAST ALERT!, again on K-band. Once again, my heart was in my throat as I feverishly searched for what clearly was a trooper waiting to pounce on me when I got my speed high-enough for a big fat juicy ticket. Again, I hunkered down in the center lane, like a good little boy, waiting (I mean praying) for the trooper to overtake me and seek out better prey.

Well, he never did and only after I was passed by a couple of small compacts, did I get the nerve to re-assert the Caddy's V8 in the left lane.

Another FULL BLAST K-band shot! This time from the front!

I was thinking, what the heck is going on here? Did he pass me somehow? Is he driving an unmarked? I am too tired to be dealing with this I resigned myself to cruise at a more leisurely pace. If he's around, I don't care, if he hasn't pulled me over now, I must be pretty safe.

Then again, full-blast of K-band in the front...then in the rear!

At this point, I started to think that something else was going on here. Something with a certain regularity. Something, benign.

Then I thought of the feature that was in the back of my mind, a feature that was now being offered by Escort and Beltronics. A feature called TSR or traffic sensor rejection filtering.

Ahhh, that must be it! This is what it's all about. This is why Escort introduced this new filtering capability! To filter out this extremely unsettling annoyance!

Sure enough, I started looking at the side of the highway and then I saw it! A silver-like tube mounted on a pole and facing into the direction of traffic just at the time that I received another full-blast K-band alert.

Speedinfo's Traffic Sensor I/O K-band Radar Unit

These little buggers are used by the DOT to monitor the flow of traffic on major arteries around LA (and a growing number of other cities) to identify traffic conditions in real-time.

My Lord, and I thought K-band FM modulated vehicle lane-departure systems were potentially disruptive. In their current form, these things are far worse for any one driving with a conventional radar detector. I mean, folks, here you have a benign radar-based traffic monitoring system which directly mimics the most lethal form of police radar! OUCH!

While some speed-enforcement (or perhaps detector manufacturer marketing) departments may get giddy over such a notion, I would caution them that this is not ultimately a healthy dynamic to create on busy roadways.

SigAlert's Real-Time Traffic Reporting

These real-time traffic sensors operate a varied intervals 24/7, ranging from an observed 15 seconds to 30 seconds, during the daytime, to upwards of one minute, in the evening, and transmit for a brief duration of about 250ms (1/4 second), according to the manufacturer.

And I couldn't have selected a worse detector to use than the Valentine One. These traffic sensors wreak extreme havoc with the V1's high levels of K-band sensitivity and lightning-quick responsiveness. The V1 was essentially unusable in this environment! So, I was forced to turn it off and drive the rest of the way to my hotel as if I didn't have a radar detector with me!

Later in the week, I had a new Escort Passport 9500ix shipped directly to my hotel (from my friends at so that I could examine, in detail, the capabilities of this useful new feature (now that it's got my attention!) so that I can share my first-hand experiences with my loyal readers and hopefully spare you the heartache that I initially experienced.

After spending a couple of days using the Passport 9500ix and comparing and contrasting it to the Valentine One when exposed to this sensor technology, I have formed some opinions that I share in the following video, actually demonstrating their respective behaviors.

Interestingly, I believe this video also effectively demonstrates the different reaction-timing philosophies of both companies that quick-trigger (QT) advocates will really appreciate.

Judging by my experiences (as documented in the video), I believe Escort is effectively "filtering out" these alerting sources, by intentionally slowing K-band responsiveness, long-enough that when this additional time-requirement is added to their underlying K-band duration-requirement, that it extends the reactivity of their detectors long-enough so that any brief traffic sensor emission is gone within the combined time-requirement, thus eliminating these spurious alerts completely.

I believe this feature is not all that dissimilar to Whistler's long-standing user selectable filter modes, each of which, changes the responsiveness of their detectors to brief radar sources, independent of band. In this case, of course, Escort and Beltronics appear to be doing this only with K-band.

One of the upshots of this, I believe, is that their detectors can even be more quiet to relatively brief detections of K-band, which frequently come from door openers of stores adjacent to the highway, when TSR filtering is enabled.

Keep in mind, Escorts, by design, are not the quickest at validating K-band sources to begin with (that in part, contributes to them being less-prone to falsing than, say, a V1 or a segmented STi-R with RDR OFF).

Even without TSR filtering enabled, the duration of the traffic sensors' K-band transmissions appear close enough to the Escort's minimum validating time requirements for K-band that their detectors do not consistently alert to them which, in this instance, is not necessarily a bad thing.

If my observations are correct, I would recommend when TSR is not specifically required, that you turn-off the feature, as the total combined "delay" may be long enough to put you at an increased risk to missing a bonafide brief shot of K-band when and where instant-on K-band is being deployed.

In fact, I would much prefer if Escort would allow for a single push of a button to quickly enable or disable the feature (much like city/highway modes). As it stands, one has to enter the programming modes of the detector, drill deep down into the menu system, and change the band-reception configuration. Perhaps an even better approach would be to allow for the automatic engagement/disengagement of the "filter" by GPS coordinates maintained by GPS-enabled radar detectors like the 9500ix (though this may be much harder for them to program in actual practice).

These preferences aside, in my opinion, while driving on roadways deploying traffic sensors such as these, Escort's and Beltronics' feature is a most welcomed new capability that can make all the difference in the world between a most-hellish or an extremely pleasurable driving experience with a very sensitive radar detector.

The choice is yours...

Update 18 JAN 11: My understanding is that as more of these systems get deployed, the manufacturer may look at ways to make them less likely to create these kinds of interference issues, a very good thing, because I feel there will be a lot of benefits to this new traffic-flow monitoring and reporting technology, especially one that is not disruptive to radar detector owners.

The good news is that Valentine Research may have their own software/firmware update in the works and it's conceivable that existing Whistlers can be set to filter-2 mode along with POP-OFF to essentially accomplish a similar outcome!

Stay tuned...

Veil Guy

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Laser Ally Lidar Speed Gun: High Tech Laser

Laser Ally Police Lidar Unit

I still have a first generation police laser gun from Laser Technology (LTI) in my possession, the 20-20 Marksman, introduced in the early to 1990s. It's sheathed in metal and sports some serious optics. It's also packs some heft to it.

At the time, it was common to see these lidar guns being operated by the Maryland State Police tripod-mounted, perhaps, in part, because it didn't take long to experience wrist and general muscle fatigue, when hand-held, because they tended to be a bit top heavy. But, they were built like a tank. In fact, not so long ago, I had a conversation with a NJ State Trooper who was still operating one in the field, because the later generation models, like the LTI Ultralyte, were not holding up in the field as well as these original designs.

As lidar guns have evolved over the years (now being 3rd/4th generation) from the long-established manufacturers—LTI, Kustom, Stalker, and Laser Atlanta, they have tended to get smaller, lighter, and considerably less expensive than their predecessors.

A New Kid on the Block

As with any reduction in manufacturing costs, the trend, all too often, is that quality, reliability, and perhaps even performance suffers as a consequence. A good example of this, is Kustom Signal's Pro-Lite series of binocular-style lasers. In my experience, the earlier and most expensively built Pro-III is its superior.

Perhaps bucking this trend is DragonEye Technology and their fresh new laser gun called the Laser Ally, which was on display to the traffic enforcement community at the most recent IACP conference, in Florida, and distributed exclusively by Digital Ally.

While Kansas-based Digital Ally is certainly the new kid on the block when it comes to lidar enforcement, it wouldn't be accurate to think of the the Laser Ally as an "immature" or unproven product.

The Laser Ally is the brainchild of Scott Patterson of Dragon . Mr. Patterson has more than a decade of development experience with police lasers, having worked for Kustom Signals along with some other lidar manufacturers.

Over the years, Scott listened to the feedback from the field, collected a list of gripes or suggestions for improvement from the actual users of the different lidar guns, and used this information to develop a newer generation of police laser designed specifically for the officers and not just some generic RFP.

The appearance of the Laser Ally looks somewhat unorthodox; most notable is the handle, which pitches forward, as opposed to toward the rear or perpendicular to the chassis of other more conventionally designed lasers. This is claimed to improve balance, making it easier to target while being less fatiguing over extended periods of use. We are told by the manufacturer that this will be welcomed, especially by female officers or motorcycle patrols.

From a quality of construction stand-point, Digital Ally has asserted that while compact, the Laser Ally is structurally quite rugged, sporting an internal "floating" internal mechanism that improves accuracy and if dropped or subjected to heavy blows, the die cast, cushioned impact resistant, superimposing elements and HUD projecting display will retain its reticule aiming accuracy without requiring adjustment.

The targeting HUD features a reticule whose shape is wider than it is taller, which assists in easier and more precise targeting at a distance and provides a superior through-the-glass viewfinder experience.

With respect to it targeting abilities, the Laser Ally is capable of successfully measuring speeds through windshields (even those that are tinted) at distances greater than 500 meters (1625 feet) and, as expected, should provide superior inclement weather operation, as well.

Unique to Laser Ally, is an obstruction mode, which allows for the elimination of stationery fixed sources of reflections, enabling accurate speed/distance measurements from cover and through obstructions that would prevent other lidar guns from obtaining speed readings.

The Laser Ally is designed to accept conventionally-sized C batteries which can also be rechargeable. This promises to be a more cost-effective alternative to proprietary battery/handle inserts of other lasers, such as the Kustom Pro III and Laser Atlanta Speed Lasers.

A very functional sleep mode only requires a single trigger-pull to "awaken" the targeting functions which will also engage the display of the last speed and distance clocking results.

The lidar unit, itself, is lighter than even the diminutive LTI Truspeed while promising to be as quick as the Truspeed in acquisition times, which I regard as one of the quickest in obtaining speed readings.

According to the manufacturer, the Laser Ally incorporates advanced laser-jamming "proof" algorithms, which make it virtually undetectable and un-jammable, and is field-updateable via a USB connected PC, meaning no more having to take equipment out of service to load new firmware, threatening the efficacy of all laser jammers.

Unlike Laser Atlanta's optional (and for an additional fee) stealth-mode (which has been largely figured out by most radar detector/laser jammer companies), the Laser Ally does not require a deep menu selection to enable the feature as it is a standard feature which operates by default.

This should prove to be a somewhat of a headache to operators of laser jammers (although as a percentage of total driving population, they are a rather minuscule amount) because most officers were not aware of LA's stealth-mode ability or fully understood how to enable/disable the function.

As of August 2010, the Laser Ally was certified for speed measurement and now appears on its approved list of lidar guns for traffic/speed enforcement.

We understand that, Digital Ally has yet to be awarded a state-wide contract, but the Laser Ally can be found in limited operation in several cities throughout North America, including Boston, Massachusetts.

The Laser Ally is competitively priced, retailing at $2995USD.

Although a new comer to the laser speed enforcement market, Digital Ally appears to be offering a mature and thoughtfully designed speed measurement device that has some pedigree to it.

We are expecting to receive a unit on loan from the manufacturer and will publish an accompanying video demonstrating its use and feature set.


Time will tell if Digital Ally can sufficiently penetrate the mature laser speed enforcement marketplace. However, judging by its extensive oft user-requested feature set and elegant design, the prospect of success appears promising.

Official Product Information: Laser Ally
Corporate Contact: Digital Ally, Inc., +1 913.814.7774

Online Discussion: Laser Ally Police Laser