By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Radar suppliers Escort and Beltronics are pushing into the laser jammer market this year with claims that the segment is gaining in consumer acceptance and awareness.
Both companies debuted their first stand-alone laser blockers at the Consumer Electronics Show last month and assert that a laser jammer is the only truly effective means of avoiding speeding tickets from a laser gun.
Also in the radar market, Cobra debuted a new anti-falsing technology in its 2002 line of 10 band detectors, while Beltronics boosted radar sensitivity and Whistler showed new designs and displays.
Escort's new Shifter ZR3 laser jammer is unique in that it comes with both front and rear modules (twin transceivers for the front and a third transceiver for the rear, which mounts on the license plate holder). The Shifter comes with its own display and can also interface with a Passport 8500 radar detector and use the 8500 display. It indicates front or rear reception and has a remote "mute" switch to temporarily turn off the jammer (so that if an officer detects it and retries his laser gun, he won't get a jamming signal on the second try, but the driver will have presumably corrected his speed).
Beltronics' first entry into the laser jammer arena is the LaserPro 904 stand-alone unit, which is expected to ship early this year at a suggested retail price of $399.95.
The company also showed at CES four new radar detectors with "Digital Broadband Technology," which makes use of a new oscillator to dramatically improve radar sensitivity, particularly in the K and KA radar bands, said VP sales and marketing Donal Rich.
The new models, part of the Vector series, also add AutoScan, which automatically fine tunes the detector's sensitivity for optimal X, K and KA performance to reduce false alerts.
At the high end is the VECTOR 990, which can detect frequencies used in Europe as well as the United States at a suggested retail price of $499.95. The step-down model, 985, for the United States only, includes selectable band defeat, voltage meter mode, AutoScan and a "Tech Mode," which displays the actual frequencies of each band. It has 64 digital voice and text messages, and comes with a two year warranty at $339.95. Other new models include the VECTOR 960 and VECTOR 940 at $279.95 and $219.95, respectively.
Cobra's new anti-falsing technology is called SmartMute. It eliminates false radar alerts at certain designated speeds. A circuit in the car's electrical system detects the car engine RPM allowing drivers to set a speed below which they do not want to receive radar alerts. On the highway, for example, a driver can push a button to set the detector to block alerts below 55 miles per hour. Or he can adjust that to a ceiling of 25 mph, when driving on city streets.
In addition, all but one of the models in the new Cobra line detects a new type of laser gun called Pro Laser III for a total of 10 bands of detection, according to the company.
The line also includes Cobra's Safety Alert System, which gives advance warning of approaching emergency vehicles, trains, busses and other vehicles equipped with Safety Alert transmitters. All the radar detectors have been cosmetically redesigned and are expected to ship in the second quarter at prices ranging from $79.95 to $209.95.
Five new models from Whistler feature pivoting displays to reduce glare and front-mount controls in two new designs. The new 1760 and 1765 detectors have all-band detection, VG-2 cloaking, a setting saver, rear-facing laser sensors and digital compass. The units share the same features but in two different styles and carry a suggested retail price of $179.95.
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