How Does a Radar Detector Work: Technical Perspective

How Does a Radar Detector Work: Technical Perspective

Radar Detector Basics

Radar is frequently used by police to identify how fast a vehicle is moving. Police will often use radar detectors to identify speeding vehicles. In return, drivers can purchase radar detectors to let them know when radar is being used on the roadways.

One of the main jobs of radar detectors is to warn drivers that there is a radar device in the vicinity. When the radar detector alerts a driver of a radar presence, the driver will usually inspect their speed and adjust it accordingly to avoid the risk of a ticket. To better understand all of the benefits of using a radar detector, it is helpful to know their functionality.

The Internal Workings of a Radar Detector

A radar speed gun incorporates both a radio receiver and a radio transmitter. The transmitter’s job is to oscillate an electrical current that enables the voltage to go up and down. The electromagnetic energy generated by this travels as an electromagnetic wave through the air. The transmitter includes an amplifier that works to increase the electromagnetic intensity. The transmitter also includes an antenna which broadcasts the energy into the air. Meanwhile, the radio receiver finds electromagnetic waves in the air with an antenna in order to convert them into an electrical current.

A radio wave emitted by a radar device moves at the speed of light, and when it hits an object it bounces back to the device. The time taken by the radar device to measure the speed of a moving vehicle depends on the distance of the vehicle but the difference of time is miniscule.

Wave Frequencies

When a radar gun is used to detect the speed of the moving vehicle, the wave frequency of the signal returned is changed because the vehicle is moving. If the vehicle is moving towards the radar device, the distance and time for the return signal to travel is reduced, while the frequency of the radio wave increases. The radar device used for determining the speed of the car uses that change in frequency to determine speed.

Usually, radar detectors identify the radio wave bandwidth of any radar device used by police and inform the driver. Essentially, the detectors pick up the specific frequencies of the radar devices used to identify speeding cars. Often, radar guns pick up radar radio waves before the vehicle comes within visual range.

Factors Affecting the Range of the Radar Detector

According to a Car and Driver study, loss in detection range significantly occurs when the car has a windshield embedded with metallic or commercial tint films. The range of radar detection depends on these two treatments. You find these films in high-end imported products, Everclear windshields, Instaclear windshields, and GM products. The radar detection capability of vehicles with these products drops by 95 percent.

GPS Radar Detectors

The recent developments in GPS technology have given radar detectors an increased functionality. A radar detector with GPS calculates the location and speed of the vehicle by using a GPS satellite network. The GPS system also allows for companies to provide additional services such as decreased false alerts and high-risk zone alerts. These comprise some of the biggest advantages of GPS radar detectors. Radar detectors without GPS strictly rely on the radio receiver to signal the driver of any incoming radar waves.

Some GPS detectors can adjust their sensitivity according to the speed of the vehicle. This means that users do not need to manually switch between city and highway modes. Moreover, radar detectors with GPS can also alert the users when they are traveling over the standard speed limit. Some of them provide alerts for speed cameras, speed trap locations, and traffic lights. The GPS radar detector will usually warn the driver of a radar signal with enough time to adjust the vehicle’s speed. Some of the radar detectors allow the user to access a downloadable database of known enforcement and camera locations.

Radar Detectors with Smartphone Compatibility

The advancement of technology has created a number of ways to integrate the radar detector with a smartphone. Users can find apps for Android and iOS platforms that enable the radar detectors to send mobile alerts when approaching a known enforcement area. Some of the apps even allow the users to highlight enforcement areas on a map in order to alert other drivers nearby. You can also find radar detectors with Bluetooth on the market for an easy smartphone connection.

Summing Up How a Radar Detector Works

Essentially, radar detectors are radios programmed to pick-up the wave frequencies used by radar guns. The detector allows the driver to stay informed of a speed trap location as well as allows for the driver to adjust their speed if required. Radar detectors are legal in almost every state, however, in the District of Columbia and Virginia, it is illegal to use radar detectors.

References

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/radar-detector.htm

http://www.crutchfield.com/S-eSM7U2Uw24j/learn/learningcenter/car/radar.html

http://www.thomasnet.com/articles/instruments-controls/how-radar-detectors-work

http://www.valentine1.com/V1Info/whatyoushouldknowradar.asp

 

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