There's a certain degree of poetic justice in the notion of countering speedtrap technology with yet more technology. There's a long history of this, beginning in the fifties when traffic radar first appeared.
Drivers flashed their headlights to warn others of radar traps. Low tech, but it worked. In the mid-seventies the arrival of the CB radio created an instant community of smokey spotters. But that craze soon diminished, overwhelmed by mindless chatter and useless reports. Something better clearly was needed.
That may have arrived, thanks to exponential growth in smartphone usage and Internet availability. That combination has been harnessed by Escort Live, offered as an add-on to most radar detectors from Escort and its subsidiary, Beltronics.
With the Escort Live power cord attached to the radar detector, the Escort Live app must be downloaded to the smartphone. (On iPhones it's available via the Apple iTunes app.) With app installed and running and detector powered up, the final step is Bluetooth pairing of phone and Escort Live power cord.
We followed this sequence using two iPhone models, a 3GS and 4S (it's backward-compatible from the latest iPhone model), and a Samsung Android smartphone. Downloading was simple in each case; creating an account with user name and password took slightly longer Once logged in, Escort Live quickly spotted the smartphones and paired with them. This event was confirmed when the flashing blue LED turned solid. We were in business.
Sharing X- and K-band alerts is the user's call, requiring a press of the Report button. X-band alerts are almost always generated by radar-controlled automatic door openers, occasionally by intrusion-alarm systems. K band is home to about 20,000 radar guns nationwide, along with about 20 times that many door openers.
K-band alerts also are caused by radar detectors, mainly Cobra and Whistler models. Increasingly they're from the Blind Spot Warning systems and Adaptive Cruise Control systems used on newer vehicles from Mercedes, Jaguar, Ford, GM, Audi, Mazda, Honda, Hyundai and Kia, among others.
Few neophytes can identify the source of an X- or K-band alert, leading to spurious Escort Live warnings as a result. Fortunately, the system monitors each alert to grade its validity. If no subsequent alerts to the same signal are received, the threat level is downgraded after about one hour and it's removed after another hour of inactivity.
We found the Escort Live user interface to be intuitive and easily mastered. Two screens are offered, Dashboard and Map; the graphics of both are attractive and coherently laid out. Most staffers preferred the map screen, finding the realtime distance-to-danger graphics more entertaining.
The Cobra iRadar system we tested in parallel fared rather poorly in comparison, generating an abundance of bogus alerts while missing too many real threats. Staffers were universally unimpressed by the iRadar app's graphics and user interface; when we tested its radar-detection abilities any vestige of enthusiasm disappeared entirely. In fairness, though, the Cobra system is far less expensive than the lowest-priced combination of Escort Live plus a BEL or Escort radar detector.
Combining Escort Live with one non-GPS model, the Escort RedlineXR, creates the world's best-performing radar detector with red light camera protection.
These are the same capabilities we find so compelling in the Escort Passport 9500ci (a built-in model) and others in the corporate GPS radar detector family.
All Escort and Beltronics GPS-enabled models linked to Escort Live get the benefit of real-time warnings of enforcement activity. Priced from $99.95, it can be a cost-effective antidote to a speeding ticket.