Taz's current RADAR detector is the Escort model 9500ix, a marvel of modern telemetry equipment that incorporates not only top flight radar and laser detection circuitry, but a GPS-driven onboard speed trap database, as well. My wonderful wife, Hillie, gifted me with this little jewel Christmastime 2008, and installation was as simple as unplugging my old Escort 8500-X50 and plugging in the new unit.
As most who follow the major automotive magazines are well aware, Arizona in general, and the Phoenix metro area in particular, have been furiously pursuing revenue through extremely aggressive traffic enforcement. The latest twist to the speed enforcement game has been the introduction of stationary "safety" camera emplacements that emit no detectable signals. Instead, these gems rely on sensors embedded in the roadway to clock their targets, rendering conventional radar-laser detectors useless for obtaining advance notification of one's approach to them. And since the unmanned robot cameras offer an enormous bang for the buck, they're popping up on Arizona Interstates and surface roads like corn kernels in a steamy bag of Orville Redenbacher's. The first indication that you've been nabbed by one is usually the arrival of your ticket in the mail along with a note that reads something like, "Just send us the money and nobody gets hurt."Cha-ching! No points are added to your license for snagging one of these robo-tickets. Arizona just needs the cash, so pay up.
Many other states are scrambling to install stationary cameras, as well. Enter Escort's 9500 series detector models. The GPS technology built into each of these units enables it to compare its own position and direction of travel to the locations of potential hazards stored in its onboard database, and to offer advance warning of impending financial doom. Now, whenever I approach a stationary camera emplacement, my Escort alerts me in time to respond appropriately. Naturally, the detector's onboard database is updateable, and Escort makes downloadable updates available on a regular basis, so my detector keeps pace with new cameras as they are added. The icing on the cake is that not only can uncataloged speed traps be manually added to the database, but nuisance false alerts can be locked out either automatically or manually, as well. Sweet.
2010 Update: State legislation required the removal of all camera emplacements from Arizona highways by 15 JUL 2010. I was pleasantly surprised to see this actually come to pass. (After all, this meant giving up a blue ribbon revenue generator.) Nevertheless, all the stationary speed and red light camera emplacements of our state's local municipalities remain, so my Escort's GPS capabilities are still continually called upon to keep my driving record clean.
Like my previous detectors, the 9500ix is hard-wired into the Cobra's electrical system to eliminate the unsightly dongle cord. The installed unit is pictured below.
While the 9500ix offers excellent laser detection as one of its many capabilities, detection alone is often little more than notification that it's time to pull over and retrieve your license, registration, and proof of insurance. Unlike radar, which scatters and skips, enabling even a modest radar detector to provide adequate warning to a speed trap ahead, laser is tightly focused and not scattered by impacted surfaces. Additionally, lidar speed guns are, by nature, relatively short range measurement devices that require no warm-up and very little lock-on time, making mere detection largely ineffectual in avoiding a laser-generated citation.
Jamming radar is a violation of federal law, but although a few states (10 the last time I checked) have passed legislation making laser jamming illegal, most have not, and there is no federal prohibition of this. Consequently, the folks at Escort have developed a laser transceiver kit that can equip drivers with genuinely effective electronic countermeasures to lidar speed enforcement. The Escort ZR4 transceiver kit includes front and rear transceivers, an interface module, and a display unit. However, those with compatible detectors, such as the 9500ix, can forego the installation of the display unit and simply integrate the ZR4 system with their detectors via the interface module, eliminating the need to find a spot for yet another gizmo inside one's passenger cabin. Naturally, when Hillie asked me what I'd like as a birthday gift for 2009, an Escort ZR4 kit was my immediate choice.
2010 Update : In retrospect, my selection of a ZR4 kit as my 2009 birthday gift was practically precognitive. The Klingon battle cruisers around here are being outfitted with lidar at an alarming rate. Taz has already been targeted on several occasions, so I'm certain that, like my 9500ix, the ZR4 has already paid for itself many times over.
The ZR4 installation isn't difficult, but it is time-consuming due to the necessity of running cables from the transceivers in the car's nose and tail into the cabin for connection to the interface unit. The rear transceiver is designed to be mounted either above or below the rear license plate (a preferred laser speed enforcement target), and comes with a black powder coated bracket preinstalled for easy mounting. The only snag involves finding a path to run its cable into the passenger compartment. Fortunately, drilling a suitable hole in the Cobra's fiberglass deck lid was easy work, and locating the hole next to one of the license plate lamps rendered it inconspicuous, as well. The two photos in the top half of the composite graphic below show the location of the hole and the cable's watertight grommet after installation.
I sheathed the cable in plastic flex loom for added insurance against accidental damage. Then, I ran it along the Cobra's factory harnesses in the trunk and passenger compartment. The bottom left photo in the composite below shows the path of the ZR4 harness (the one secured by the white sticky-back near the BAP) through the trunk, and the bottom right photo shows the cable's routing below the rear seat to the left rocker panel. From there, the harness runs along the existing vehicle wiring loom to the driver side kick panel, and up under the dash to the interface module.
As depicted in the top left panel of the composite below, I mounted the two front transceivers on either side of the grille badge, near the headlights (typical front aiming spots for laser guns). As I had done with the rear transceiver's cable, I sheathed the front cables in plastic flex loom, as shown in the panel at the upper right. Then, I removed the driver side fender liner and ran the harness along the existing wiring to a spare grommet that opened into the left kick panel area, as shown in the photos in the bottom half of the composite.
Once I had pulled all the transceiver cables to the area under the dash where I planned to install the ZR4's interface module, I cut each cable to length and re-terminated it with a fresh RJ-11 connector. Since I had previously installed one of Escort's hardwired "Smart Cords" for use with the car's radar detector, I was spared the tasks of fishing a new detector cable up the A-pillar and running fresh power and ground cables for the interface unit. Instead, I simply cut the two cables from the remote module on the Smart Cord and added the appropriate connectors for use with the ZR-4 to their ends. Additionally, the 4-pin RJ-11 connected to the detector needed to be replaced with an RJ-22 6-pin connector, but this took only a couple minutes.
As you can see in the two photos below, the finished project presents an inconspicuous, well-integrated appearance. Even more importantly, it works perfectly.
TECH TIP: If you install a laser shifting system in your own vehicle, please DO NOT jam all the way to the lidar gun! Scrub speed as quickly as possible without being too blatantly obvious, and then place your system into bypass or alert-only mode to enable the officer to get a reading. Jamming to the gun will make you a target for closer scrutiny, and you don't want that. Besides, even though laser jamming systems are legal in most states, I strongly suspect this will change if enough users jam all the way to the gun. Don't JTG!
There are a number of websites that provide independent evaluations of speed enforcement countermeasure products. A couple of my favorites are SpeedZones and RadarTest. Check them out if you're interested in learning more about current traffic enforcement practices and technology, and the various methods available for mollifying them.
Editorial Comment: These extreme countermeasures against such blatant probable-cause violations SHOULD be entirely unnecessary, and I am old enough to remember a time when they were. Our civil rights still meant something back then, and violations against them simply would not be tolerated. Sadly, this is no longer the case. As the ruling class continues to shape us into a society of unquestioning obedience and utter conformity, they have sold us - or at least most of us - on the notion of trading away the rights that our founding fathers fought for and died to secure for future generations in return for an empty promise of security. Nonsense!
On a more personal note, I am utterly ashamed of my own generation for selling out our collective ideals to the almighty dollar. Well done, folks! How many of you even realize that the Establishment simply bought all of us baby-boomers after they concluded during the Nixon era that they couldn't beat us into submission? An entire generation bought for the price of a BMW and a split-level in suburbia. Swell. As for subsequent generations, don't even get me started.