Spend any time in the middle of America, where population density is low and cities are separated by jillions of miles of highway, and you're guaranteed to end up talking about evading speed limit laws and the watchful eye of the local Highway patrol. It's a cold war of sorts, with local constabulary investing in powerful radar and laser tech or aerial surveillance, and the citizenry spending thousands to foil those efforts. That's where companies like Escort Radar come in. A 30-year veteran of the speed limit wars, they were on hand at CES Unveiled Sunday night with a few of their latest devices, two of which offer novel, if exceedingly expensive, means of navigating the highways and byways and possibly evading Johnny Law.
The SmartMirror GPS is the kind of device that sounds incredibly cool, at least until you consider how difficult the majority of drivers find it to remember that texting while driving often results in sudden existence failure. The left 2/3 of the SmartMirror is a standard rear view mirror, while the right third is a touchscreen interface boasting GPS capabilities, a map and route finder, and a traffic conditions alert system. Drivers will sacrifice some visibility, thanks to losing such a huge chunk of their rear view, however the ease of use (it also responds to voice commands), and the optional rear video camera compatibility, promise some mitigation of the problem. Naturally, this doesn't come cheap, clocking in at a pricey $899.99. But if you have the cheese, and don't mind losing a third of your rear visibility, it's a cool way to make your SUV a little geekier.
A more promising (and slightly less expensive) device is the Passport IQ, a tablet-like device roughly the size of a Samsung Galaxy Note. It combines a GPS navigation system, a map and the ability to manage a radar detection system on a compact 5-inch screen. But it isn't featureless, operating on 4 different bands, offering compatibility with numerous radar or laser detection systems, and the ability to draw power directly from your car's electrical system. While only a single app can be in managed at any given time, it gives priority to your radar detection system, meaning that if you're receiving directions and the detector picks up a laser or radar, the Passport IQ overrides the GPS navigation in order to alert you.
The catch is that it's going to feel terribly clunky for users used to elegance of smartphones and tablets. Though small, it's thick, almost resembling something from 1990s-era Star Trek rather than a modern tablet, and it has a crummy 480 x 272 resolution. It also isn't cheap, coming in at $649.95 for the basic unit. Frankly, it isn't suited for people who live in congested regions, or for experienced tech users who aren't obsessed with getting one over on the local cops. However, for people who do care about such things, it makes for a decent auto accessory.