Porsche Relocating 1.5 Million Bees to Leipzig Factory Grounds

Porsche recently relocated 1.5 million endangered honey bees to an undeveloped patch of land at their Leipzig factory. If you haven’t heard, bee populations are in trouble around the world. And though they may occasionally sting us, we really need them to do their whole pollination thing; bees are beyond vital keeping most things alive on our planet.

The conundrum for the automotive enthusiast (which, if you are reading this at The Drive, most likely includes you) is that our beloved car is not exactly environmentally friendly. Even with electric cars, hybrids, alternative fuels, new emissions-scrubbing technologies, and everything “green” you can throw at a vehicle, your car is a rolling EPA Superfund site. If we want to continue to have nice things, we need to make sure we are doing what we can to help clean up the world. Which is what Porsche is doing with a frightening amount of bees.

According to a press release, Porsche giving a new home to 25 colonies of bees in off-road area of their Leipzig factory property. Porsche has used the land as a conservation area since they acquired it in 2000. The former military site has been completely transformed back to it’s natural state, and is home to many types of critters including birds, frogs, bats, insects, rabbits, wild horses, and 75 aurochs.

The bees can now do all their bee things without disturbing too many people. Plus, Porsche is going to harvest their honey, which will be used for “employee catering” at the Leipzig plant. If my German translation is correct, “employee catering” is a nice way of saying cafeteria. Though, this being Porsche, it’s probably the nicest lunch room you’ll ever see. Customers visiting the Leipzig plant may also get a chance to buy some Porsche honey later this year.

I can’t even imagine what Porsche honey would cost. Given that you can buy 100 Porsche 911-shaped paper clips for $20 versus 5000 regular paperclips for $17 on Amazon, I would guess the honey isn’t going to be cheap. But I bet it’ll be some of the best honey you’ll ever have.

Included in the press release was this great info-graphic about the Porsche bees.

You also might be asking “What exactly is an auroch?” Answer: it’s an extinct cattle that apparently Porsche (or someone) brought back to life. (No really, it was extinct.) Porsche is doing their part to be good environmental stewards, as should we all. So get out there, recycle some stuff, save a bee, and let some extinct mammal roam around in your backyard.

Listen to the 2018 BMW M8 Roar at the Nurburgring

After years of rumors floating around that the company was planning a new 8 Series model, BMW has confirmed them in recent days with record enthusiasm. In the span of less than a month, the Bavarian Motor Works announced a new range-topping coupe was headed for production next year, previewed said car with the gorgeous Concept 8 Series at Villa d'Este, and announced that the new 8 Series range would also include a 2018 BMW M8...by bringing a camouflaged (but apparently near-production-ready) version of it to the 24 Hours Nurburgring race last weekend.

As the 24 Hours of Nurburgring is a rather well-attended motorsports event, the new BMW M8 didn't exactly go unnoticed at its global debut. (Not that BMW expected to, mind you.) So when the company started up the camouflaged two-door for the first time in the public sphere, a veritable gaggle of gearheads with smartphones were gathered around to see—and, as it turns out, hear—the car in real life.

Included among them: veteran YouTube car spotter cvdzijden, who was front and center for the super-coupe's grand entrance from behind a banner bearing the catchphrase "TOO MANY SECRETS." Not only did his camera capture the car from the front, side, and rear of the vehicle, but the microphone also grabbed the snarling exhaust note pouring out of the engine—reportedly, the same 600-horsepower twin-turbo V-8 unit found in the forthcoming BMW M5. He even caught a good glimpse of the car blasting onto the 'Ring itself with a couple M3 Ring Taxis...an accelerative burst that left us even more excited to drive this big Bimmer than we were before.

Volvo’s First China-Built S90 to be Transported on High-Tech Rail Link

Volvo Cars announced that it will start shipping Volvos made in China to Belgium via China's efficient rail link. This train system establishes a direct and faster trade route between China and Europe, helping China improve its image as a premium manufacturing center at scale. Volvo clearly understands China's potential, having already started manufacturing some of its cars there. (Plus, Volvo is currently owned by Geely, a Chinese auto manufacturer.) The Swedish premium manufacturer first started exporting cars from China to America two years ago with the S60 Inscription, and plans to revive that program with the brand-new S90. This development is another massive step for Volvo in its efforts to take advantage of certain countries' huge manufacturing potentials as it leads the way in global automotive expansion for premium vehicles.

The S90 sedan manufactured at the Daqing factory will be the first Volvo to make the journey to the Zeebrugge, Belgium facility for distribution. Volvo plans to transport the first group of cars this week, and will initially send a new batch of cars along the route once a week. Up to 120 cars can be transported on the train in containers made specifically for Volvos.

There are a number of benefits to transporting via rail over shipping automobiles over the sea. Along with cheaper fuel costs, Volvo says that China's rail line is more environmentally friendly than ships. It is also 75 percent faster to transport a car to Belgium on a train than on a boat, so customers get their cars sooner.

South China Sea Underwater “Environmental” Sensor Net Could Track U.S. Subs

The Chinese government has approved plans for a massive undersea surveillance network in both the East and South China Seas. Officially intended to primarily monitor environmental changes, state officials acknowledge the systems will have “national defense” applications, which could include tracking the movements of foreign submarines.

The plan includes a number of unspecified sensors on the ocean floor, connected via optical cables to a central processing and monitoring facility in Shanghai. The devices will be able to provide “real-time, high-definition, multiple interface, and three-dimensional observations,” according to state-run outlet CCTV.

“China is an ocean power; it should have done more in oceanic studies in the past,” Jian Zhimin, dean of the School of Marine and Earth Sciences at Tongji University in Shanghai, told CCTV. “An ocean power must be able to go to the high seas and go global.”

Ostensibly, the network forms a “laboratory” in which researchers can study climate change and maritime phenomena, Jian added. Additional reports suggested that this equipment would be calibrated to gather chemical, biological, and geological data. But the national security implications are hard to miss.

A prototype of one of the sensors for China's new monitoring underea system.

The underwater system could be useful for “other sectors, such as mining, mapping or ocean rights protection, and national defense in addition to scientific research,” Zhou Huaiyang, a professor in Tongji’s School of Marine and Earth Sciences, explained to CCTV. “We hope different governmental departments can work together to work out stricter regulations and measures on the protection of these undersea facilities, so as to ensure the long-term operation of this system.”

It is possible that Zhou’s reference to “national defense” referred to the preservation, exploration, and exploitation of natural resources for China’s benefit. The East and South China Seas may contain untapped reserves of oil, natural gas, and valuable minerals, as well as just being important sources of fish and other edible marine animals.

An artist's conception of the undersea network.

However, it seems much more likely the network’s defensive function would have to do with monitoring foreign military movements, especially of submarines. Earlier in May 2017, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that the state-owned China State Shipbuilding Corporation had presented details of a massive “Underwater Great Wall Project” for the People’s Army Liberation Navy (PLAN) during a public exhibition the previous year. That proposal sounds extremely similar to the one CCTV announced in size and scope if not necessarily stated function.

During the Cold War, the United States maintained a similar system to guard itself against Soviet submarines, known as the Sound Surveillance System, or SOSUS, which employed groups of ultra-sensitive hydrophone listening devices along the seabed . As a result of espionage, the U.S. Navy was ultimately forces to employ a combination of fixed sensor arrays, surface ships towing sonar, and processing stations ashore, known as the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS). But even decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, elements of the system remain in use or available in a crisis.

A model of the undersea network.

A similar Chinese system in the East and south China Seas would be essential for Beijing to enforce its claim to almost in their entirety of both bodies of water. Nearly every one of the country’s neighbors, as well as major international maritime nations, disputes China’s dominion over these regions. Many, such as the United States, actively challenge the country’s position by sailing through or flying over the area.

By 2015, “China demonstrated a willingness to tolerate higher levels of tension in the pursuit of its interests, especially in pursuit of its territorial claims in the East and South China Sea; however, China still seeks to avoid direct and explicit conflict with the United States,” the Pentagon noted in an annual public report to Congress on Chinese military developments. “In the near-term, China is using coercive tactics short of armed conflict, such as the use of law enforcement vessels to enforce maritime claims, to advance their interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict.”

A map of Chinese and foreign outposts in the South China Sea.

Most visibly, since 2014, the Chinese government has been actively turning at least eight previously uninhabitable reefs and shoals into man-made islands able to support military outposts. The operations at locations such as Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs in the South China Sea have airstrips able to support fighter jets and heavier aircraft, apparent radars and launch sites that could accommodate surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles for local defense, and other facilities. In March 2017, the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that commercial satellite imagery suggested these military sites were close to fully operational. The Washington, D.C. think tank created an interactive map to go along with their report, showing Chinese aircraft, missiles, and radars provide extensive coverage throughout the South China Sea.

For China, these bases are important fixed “territory” it can point to when defending its claims and as part of legal arguments it makes in front of international bodies. Similarly, it has enacted an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East Sea as another method of attempting to enforce its position. Within this zone, the country argues it can restrict foreign military movements and even dictate civilian flight paths, with any organization needing to coordinate air travel with Chinese officials. There are reports that China may be considering declaring a similar zone over the whole of the South China Sea, something its new islands could help monitor. At sea, Chinese authorities have made similar pronouncements about their control over international waters in both the South China and East Seas.

In both regions, to reinforce the country’s claims of absolute ownership, Chinese aircraft and warships have repeatedly harassed foreign civilian and military activities. The United States has responded with regular aerial and naval patrols to challenge this assertion. And though both countries might want to avoid an actual skirmish, tensions have often run high during these missions. Chinese fighter jets routinely buzz American patrol and surveillance aircraft. In May 2017, two People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) fighters performed “unsafe and unprofessional” maneuvers near a WC-135 Constant Phoenix spy plane, which collects air samples looking for evidence of nuclear tests, in international air space over the South China Sea, according to the U.S. Navy.

The China’s navy, various other maritime security forces, and the People's Armed Forces Maritime Militia – popularly known as “Little Blue Men” – all similarly shadow American warships as they move through the area during what the Pentagon pointedly refers to as “Freedom of Navigation Operations” (FONOPS). Rarely do the two sides ever truly meet. In a rare incident in May 2016, PLAAF jets scrambled from the airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef in response to the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS William P. Lawrence’s trip through the area. More flagrantly, on Dec. 15, 2016, a Chinese ship snatched a U.S. Navy underwater glider, a type of drone the service uses for underwater mapping and research activities, right out of the water and sailed away. Within a week, China had returned the Slocum glider without any real explanation of why they seized the unclassified vehicle in the first place.

But what the Chinese military hasn’t been able to do is challenge the U.S. Navy’s submarines, or those from other developed nations that patrol the East and South China seas, such as Japan and Australia. Able to operate for protracted periods under the waves, subs have an innate deterrent capability and could easily be a hidden threat to China’s man-made naval outposts during a crisis. The undersea vessels could also spy on those bases without Chinese forces being able to necessarily respond.

A Chinese warship launches anti-submarine rockets during an exercise in 2005.

In February 2017, Chinese state media announced planned changes to the country’s maritime safety statute, which would require submarines to sail on the surface with a national flag displayed when passing through regions such as the South China Sea, while reporting to Chinese maritime security organizations. Chinese officials expected the changes to take effect in 2020. "As a sovereign State and the biggest coastal State in, for example, the South China Sea, China is entitled to adjust its maritime laws as needed, which will also promote peace and stable development in the waters," Wang Xiaopeng, a maritime expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the state-operated newspaper Global Times. But, in addition to violating the most basic spirit of international maritime law, this would be difficult if not impossible for China to enforce at present.

Though the PLAN has spent considerable effort in improving its own “silent service,” submarines remains a relatively small portion of the country’s naval arm. As of 2016, China had approximately 56 attack and guided missile submarines, but a significant number of those are old Cold War designs or smaller coastal defense types, according to that year’s edition of The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ The Military Balance. The United States operates a similarly sized fleet, but one entirely comprised of long-range, ocean-going, nuclear-powered vessels. In addition, the U.S. military boasts more than twice as many nuclear-armed ballistic missile subs, not including four doing duty as cruise-missile boats. So, instead, the Chinese military would have to devote significant surface ships and aircraft just to hunt for foreign subs violating its new regulations.

A Chinese <em data-recalc-dims=Song-class submarine." />

An underwater surveillance net able to detect and track submarines traveling in and out of an area could dramatically change the calculus for world navies operating in the East and South China Seas, as well as potentially improving China’s negotiating position. The country has been undeterred by unfavorable determinations on its claims from international tribunals, insisting that it has the right to settle any disagreements directly with the affected parties.

Of course the new capability won’t come cheap. Official estimates are that the underwater project will cost approximately $2 billion Yuan – $300 million at the official, likely undervalued exchange rate – and take at least five years to complete. It’s not clear whether or not this will be the final total for the complete network that covers all of the East Sea and South China Sea, or just one initial portion covering a specific area.

What is clear is that China seems intent on challenging the ability of foreign navies to sail through bodies of water it considers to be part of its national territory, even under the surface.

Contact the author: jtrevithickpr@gmail.com

3.2-Liter 1975 Porsche 911 – The Goose Versus The Snake

Der Faszination is back again with another killer video depicting this gorgeous Mexico Blue 911S and its owner, Dave Waddell. Dave isn't much one for originality or keeping his cars bone stock. This car is evidence of that, as it's got a later 3.2-liter aircooled flat six instead of the largely derided 2.7-liter engine that it was initially sold with. Instead of 175 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque, the larger displacement engine promotes this car to a higher level of performance to the tune of 231 horsepower and 209 lb-ft of torque. It's a more reliable engine with a much larger area 'under the curve' to work with. In this lighter narrow-body early chassis, that engine can really sing.

You can tell that Dave truly enjoys driving his car, frequently taking the car out for drivers on the fantastic driving roads north of Los Angeles. Mulholland is one of those famous roads that everyone has to drive once in their life, and Dave gets to take his 911 there as frequently as possible. In the 70s and 80s, there was a reasonably infamous group of Porsche fanatics that would set up impromptu races along Mulholland, and their cars were built to the hilt in a very of-the-period fashion. This car, the Blue Goose, seems to be properly built in a very similar fashion to those old school street racers. With a roll cage, stiff torsion bars, stiff sway bars, a bigger displacement engine, and racing buckets, this car is just a chopped top away from a modern day King of Mulholland.

If we were in Dave's shoes, we'd be in love with this car as well. Mexico Blue is one of the greatest colors Porsche has ever laid on sheet metal, and there is hardly a car more deserving of such an eye-catching shade. The sound of this car as it accelerates away from the camera is one of the best we've ever heard. Nice one, Dave, now go fight some snakes.

What Do You Think of This Mustang Ute Concept Rendering?

Utes like the Chevy El Camino and Ford Ranchero are a rare sight on American roads, with their productions ending in 1979 and 1987 respectively. The body style was revived in the early-mid 2000s, when Chevrolet released the SSR, but the throwback styling ship had already sailed, and the SSR was canceled after poor sales, with only an approximate 24,000 manufactured between 2003 and 2006. Utes' days are numbered in Australia, too. The Holden Ute was based off of the Commodore's platform, and with the impending October shutdown of the Commodore's plant, the ute will soon be dead down under, too.

The gloomy loss of light-duty pickups based on car platforms doesn't have to be taken sitting down, though, and we can continue to fantasize about them all we want, or even envision their return. Rain Prisk has released a concept rendering of a ute based on the current generation of the Ford Mustang, and though the Ranchero is unmentioned, it is undoubtedly the badge this adaptation would be sold under.

In today's world of swelling pickups, a more compact, stylish, sporty light-duty truck must have at least some market viability. The current F-150, in its absolute smallest configuration with the 6.5' bed and regular cab, is a whole 209.3" long, or 17 feet and 5 inches. This is an entire 20" longer than the second generation F-series truck from the 1950s. The current Mustang is a comparatively compact 188", and the GT trim (the one you want) is in the 3800 pound range, whereas the current F-150 at its absolute lightest is 200 pounds more, and at that weight, you can't even get a V-8.

If Ford were to make a Mustang Ranchero, their performance parts bin could translate from their various Mustang trims nicely. Maybe there would even be a Mustang Ranchero GT350R, complete with carbon fiber wheels, removable chassis bracing in the bed, and a removable topper for aero gains. Even an American muscle snob such as myself could do nothing but ogle and drool at such a thing, if it were to exist. That's your cue, Ford.

Massachusetts Man Saves Woman from Burning Car with a Baseball Bat

We might not normally think of a wooden baseball bat as a rescue tool, but that’s exactly what it was in a potentially fatal car crash in Reading, Massachusetts.

Laura McCaffrey was driving with her niece when she had a seizure losing consciousness, and subsequently, losing control of her car. She crashed what appears to be a fourth-generation Ford Taurus into two utility poles breaking her windshield and starting the car on fire.

A good citizen named Brandon Finnen was attending a barbecue and ran to the scene when he heard the crash. “I saw the car on fire and the lady was unconscious in the driver’s seat. Her niece came around and tried to open the door. I told the niece to back up and I tried to start breaking the window with my fist,” Finnen told CBS Boston.

A friend noticed Finnen wasn’t getting anywhere pounding on the windows and handed him a baseball bat. He smashed the window, unlocked the car from the inside, unbuckled McCaffrey’s seat belt, and pulled her out of the burning car to safety. According to witnesses, the driver’s side of the car was engulfed in flames after the rescue.

According to police, McCaffrey and her niece were taken to the hospital and their injuries are non-life threatening. 1,300 houses went a few hours with no power, but it’s since been completely restored.

Maybe firefighters should start carrying around Louisville Sluggers in their trucks right next to the jaws of life.

Our Smyth Performance Ute Kit Is Here

I have taken delivery of my Smyth Performance Ute kit. Now I can begin the process of turning my own VW Jetta into a Ute. But before I pull the car in the garage and begin dismantling the back half of it, let's take a look at what you actually get in the kit. Not only do you receive many custom parts created by Smyth Performance, you also get a collection of standard parts that you might find at any auto parts store. But the contents of the box are the specific parts you need to build your own Smyth Ute.

The largest pieces of the kit are the fiberglass bed sides. These will run all the way from the back of what are now the front doors all the way to the rear of the car, covering the openings for the back doors. Conveniently, this particular piece will also cover up the dents in the car's right rear wheelwell. Some additional trimming will be necessary. I'll have to cut the hole for the fuel filler door, as well as make some cuts to attach the tail lights, which were originally intended for a Ford Explorer SporTrac. These are also included with the kit.

This piece will go on top of the front of the bed and attach to what's left of the roof after I cut it, creating the back of the Ute's passenger compartment. I'll also have to install the sliding glass window into it.

These fiberglass pieces are essentially a body kit that covers the rocker panels between the front wheelwells and the back doors. These will help blend the front of the car into the lines of the bed side pieces after they are installed.

Most of the aluminum pieces are bundled together here. This includes the front and sides of the bed, as well as various braces and bodywork that hold the Ute together but will not be visible from the outside. There's also a roll of black carpeting that will line the interior rather than bare metal. I'll likely add a layer of sound deadening material between the front of the bed and the interior carpet as well.

This box contains all kinds of little parts - brackets, fasteners, tailgate hardware, and so on. The tailgate itself, which is an off the shelf part for a Ford Ranger step side, is drop shipped to you directly from the supplier, and never sees the Smyth factory.

But before any of these parts go on, I have to remove quite a bit from the car. This includes the back seats, trunk interior, trunk lid, tail lights, back doors, and the back bumper. Plus there's also that minor detail of cutting the top rear quarter of the car away. I was a bit busy this past weekend and will be attending Red Bull GRC in Connecticut next weekend, but I hope to back the Jetta into the garage and begin its transformation from an ordinary sedan into a rather unusual kit car.

This Alfa Romeo 4C Hillclimb Car Has a Formula 3000 V-8

The Alfa Romeo 4C is among the cheapest of the mid-engined sports cars to be sold in America since the demise of Toyota's MR2. Sitting at $55,900 in the USA, the 4C occupies a price point in the middle ground between sports cars for us commoners, such as the Ford Mustang and Toyota 86, and the realm of supercars demanding six (or more) figures, like the Nissan GT-R. In its realm, the 4C used to be the lonely champion of the four-cylinder engine, as it has a 1.8-liter turbo four making 240 horsepower (though it now has the Porsche Boxster to keep it company).

No Google searches have turned up any automotive publications requesting more cylinders, but if more power and sound is what you need, you sometimes have to abandon your factory engine and go with something punchier. YouTube channel 19Bozzy92 has uploaded a video of a 4C hillclimb car that has been modified to accommodate the 3.0-liter Zytek V-8 from a Formula 3000 car. For those unaware, Formula 3000 is a now-defunct open wheel single seater class that was situated between Formula 3 and Formula 1. According to 19Bozzy92, the engine is making 450 horsepower, and the entire car weighs a mere 700 kilograms, or approximately 1,540 pounds. This car is still well under a ton even with a driver and full load of fuel, giving it a power-to-weight ratio approaching that of hypercars.

This is not the only instance of ex-Formula racing engines making their way into hillclimb cars. Last month, we shared a BMW powered by an Indycar V-8; even more well-known is the BMW 134 of Georg Plasa. It is good to see the trend of repurposing these rev-happy engines for further use is still happening, long after the series from which the V-8s originate are gone.

What Is The World’s Best Radar Detector?

It is indisputable that radar detectors matter more than ever, but what is the world’s best radar detector? Ask the wrong question, get the wrong answer. The arsenal of law enforcement has vastly changed since the first civilian radar detectors hit the market 40 years ago. A radar detector is useless against laser guns. Laser detection is pointless without laser jammers. What about unmarked police cars pacing traffic? Or air patrols?

Your basic stand-alone radar detector is the proverbial knife in a gunfight.

The real question is: What is the best solution for avoiding speeding tickets, right or wrong?

The answer isn’t as easy as buying a single box at any price. A radar detector is merely one tool in your arsenal, not some magic potion that will protect you 100% of the time. All those detector reviewers comparing sensitivity, ergonomics, packaging and price? Dilettantes discussing gilded bricks. It’s true. Most radar detectors—even those that look good on paper—are a primitive vestige of the pre-smartphone era: sealed boxes with hard-coded software. They are unable to keep up with or address the myriad evolving threats to their users.

The detection sector is 10+ years behind even basic connected consumer electronics, so identifying the best possible solution requires working backwards from the perfect system, which must include the following features:

Directional Display

A detector’s sole purpose is to save time and money. Any information that helps you maintain your speed is good. Any information (or lack thereof) that slows you down unnecessarily is bad. Therefore, any detector without a clear display indicating the direction of an incoming threat cannot fulfill its purpose, and is worthless.

Why? Suppose the world’s best detector sans display lights up indicating a potential threat. Is it ahead of you or behind? Three miles away or one? Impossible to know. You must slow down. You’ve now lost time. If the threat is ahead, how do you know when you’ve passed it? Until you locate the threat, you don’t. More time lost. If you had known the threat was to the rear, you might have maintained speed, or even accelerated.

No directional display? You bought a brick. Sell it, slow down, and use Waze.

Front & Rear Sensors

You wouldn’t drive without a rear-view mirror, so why would you use a detector without sensors in both directions? A directional display won’t work without them, ergo, these are mandatory. For those people who only mount sensors in the front: Good luck.

Laser Jammers

Laser detection is absolutely useless without jamming functionality. Unlike radar, once you’re hit by laser, you’re caught. Is laser jamming essential? Here’s a chart of where police use lasers in the United States. If you can install these legally, do it. Illegally? That's your business—and don’t ask me in the comments where to get it done.

Sensitivity & ADAS Filtration

The very best radar detectors will all detect radar threats of virtually any type well outside police radar guns’ effective range, in virtually all conditions. Sensitivity isn’t the problem, nor are the traditional X-Band false alarms so common in urban areas.

No, the biggest problem is the rise of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) like radar cruise control and blind-spot monitoring. These use frequencies overlapping with police radar operating in what’s called K-Band. Different ADAS suites use slightly different frequencies within K-Band, and the brute force method of filtering all of them out may lead to silencing the very threats one needs to hear.

Which brings us to...

Software Upgradeability

Your desktop or smartphone is only as safe as the latest security update. Why would you expect your anti-radar/laser solution to be any different? The rise of ADAS means that radar (and soon Lidar) will become pervasive. All that Lidar you hear about in the context of self-driving cars? Lidar = Laser = more potential false alarms.

The only solution is one that is upgradeable. As police and civilian radar and Lidar evolve, so must filtration algorithms. This means software upgrades that can behaviorally distinguish between police and civilian ADAS operating in the same frequencies and wavelengths.

Upgradeability requires more than mailing in your unit every few years for an update. False alarms are evolving faster than threats, and crippling the effectiveness of even the best countermeasures. Every time a car is updated or released with new ADAS hardware—and possibly even when a manufacturer updates their ADAS software over the air or at a dealer—filtration algorithms will need to be updated as well. This requires...

Real Connectivity

Sealed-box detectors in 2017? Be serious. USB inputs? What a kludge. A cutting edge solution should have 4G/LTE built-in, if not wifi. Smartphones and iPads in the same range price do. Besides, how else are you going to conveniently update your absolutely essential database of fixed threats. Please read on:

Fixed Threat Database

Countless GPS devices and phone apps come preloaded with red-light and speed camera locations. These change. If these change before your database has been updated, you’re screwed.

GPS-enabled

Everyone knows exactly where on their daily commute their detector goes off for no reason. Mute switches are so 1997. I want a GPS markup/tagging function that integrates with the fixed threat database, allowing me to identify fixed false alarms by location. The only argument against this is that muting by location may mask a real threat, a problem solved by combining GPS, filtration updates and—

Crowdsourcing

There is no substitute. The world’s greatest detection/jamming suite can only benefit from maximizing data across a network, and correlating it to local information. Whereas Waze relies on active input by users who spot police and enter it via its cutesy UI, imagine a platform that actively shared real radar and laser signals across the network, cross-checked both against a list of popular speed traps and patrol zones, and created a historical database ranking risk by location, time, day and date. The foundation of such a platform existed in the now defunct Trapster. If only Trapster hadn’t been acquired and abandoned by Nokia.

If only.

Be Built-in, Concealed & Shielded

Built-in, so you never have to worry about mounting hardware and turning it on. Concealed, because cops assume people with detectors are up to no good, and in some states detectors/jammers are illegal. Electromagnetically shielded, because where they’re illegal police often use radar detector detectors.

That’s quite a list. Now let’s take a look at the best you can buy today.

The Current State The Art

The good news? There are several options that deliver a mostly perfect solution. The bad news? None of them come cheap. The best solution depends on you, how much you want to suffer, and how much you want to spend on the best solution available today.

There are only two factors that matter: 1. Do you believe in the power of crowdsourced data and ecosystem? 2. Do police use lasers where you drive.

if you believe in ecosystem, there is only one choice at this time.

As for laser, the effectiveness of any built-in solution depends on what kind of laser guns police use where you drive, and whether your system can jam them. If you can afford these solutions, you (or someone you're paying) need to do some homework.

Our Choice: Consumer Near-Perfection

Escort’s Max 360 CI is an excellent built-in system, with one caveat. It costs $3,499.00 plus installation, and that’s not even the caveat. It’s the most comprehensive and easiest to use of the built-in solutions, and far closer to functional perfection than any of the alternatives.

Escort's only real shortcoming conceals its unique advantage: ecosystem. Although it doesn't integrate with Waze, you can connect the system to your phone via Bluetooth to integrate with the Escort Live app, which is vastly superior to Waze for police location in every way but one: size of user base.

In the connected future, ecosystem is everything.

Escort won’t reveal figures for their user base other than to say it's "in the millions", but it can’t be anywhere near the 50 million that Waze claimed as of 2013. Of course it’s almost impossible to estimate how many Waze users are in the US, how many actively enter data, and how much of that data is accurate enough to become information a driver can act upon.

But quantity does not equal quality.

Escort Live users may be far fewer, but pony up $50 a year for the full subscription, tether it to your system, place your smartphone on a good mount, and witness the future of situational awareness: radar and laser alerts from other users in-network appear on-screen, overlaid with their fixed threat “Defender” database updated weekly.

When you see a radar or laser threat in Escort Live, it's there because another user with Escort hardware detected it. If it's undefined, it's there because another Escort owner entered it manually—which, in my book, gives it real credence.

When you see a cop in Waze, you're hoping one or more users reported it accurately. Talk about porous. Even if they do, you don't know if it's radar or laser. Not all that helpful.

I loved Escort Live. Unless Waze starts working with one or more competing manufacturers to integrate radar/laser threat data into their app, the Escort ecosystem is the only game in town.

Has the Escort Live community reached sufficient critical mass to replace using Waze alongside the Valentine Research V1 ($449) I’ve been using for 25 years? I’m not sure about that critical mass in Nebraska, but it was sufficient on two drives cross country, and the Max 360 standalone unit ($649) I’ve been using for the last ten months is vastly superior in filtration to a V1 with the latest update.

Let me repeat that. The Escort killed the V1 in terms of false alarms. Sad, but true.

Escort's fixed threat database is accessed via Escort Live, which means it's updated via your smartphone's cellular connection. Their sensor hardware's firmware still needs to be updated via USB, but at least they're moving in the right direction. Hope you own a laptop.

As for ADAS filtration, Escort claims they are building a database of ADAS hardware by make/model, and distributing updates as quickly as they can.

Escort has a lot of work to do, but that’s a function of their ambition—they are light years ahead of everyone else in terms of ecosystem. No one else in-sector appears to be looking past hardware and basic phone apps/external displays. Until they do, every day that passes is one in Escort’s favor.

The Professionals’ Alternatives?

Two companies at the cutting edge of laser jamming now offer full halo suites designed for the serious — and I mean serious — user, both claiming radar sensitivity and laser jamming superior to Escort’s: AL Priority ($2659 + install) and Stinger ($7290 + install). Both offer updates via USB, but neither offer an app-based community/ecosystem like Escort Live.

This is where things get tricky.

For years, AL Priority laser jammers have been the product of choice for hardcore enthusiasts (and many of my friends) cobbling together a suite around the vaunted V1. Their new full suite would appear to be an incredible value for this level of performance, but the amateur user is not going to get the most out of this hardware. Effective customization is a time investment the average person is just not ready to make. Their phone app is impressive, but even if Waze alerts pop up on top of it, running two apps simultaneously on your phone does not a real ecosystem make.

How does Stinger justify its incredible price premium over everyone else? Hardware quality and size. If you know what a phased array antenna is, you're either already a Stinger customer, or you've played Harpoon and know something about Aegis missile defense cruisers. Also, Stinger's sensor heads are seriously small, which helps in states where such hardware is illegal. Stinger also offers a gorgeous little proprietary display instead of a phone app, because they think that if you're going to use Waze, you don't need another app on your phone.

I agree.

A Stinger installation will still cost you somewhere north of $8500, which is crazy even by my standards. Amortizing its expense over X moving violations and Y time is the devil's math. I admire their hardware as much as the next guy, but I can't rationalize this pricing other than as a very juicy piece of techporn.

How about that ADAS filtration? It's only as good as the update quality and frequency, and neither company has Escort's resources. How much does this matter? Seems to me that the more data gathered, the better. If you've heard of network effect, you know Escort's got a leg up.

A head-to-head-to-head test is necessary, but unless these companies start building ecosystems, the convenience/data/information chain is cut. If only someone would do an ADAS false alarm comparo, we might actually see who's ahead purely for performance. It would have to be repeated quarterly, at least, but does pure performance matter as much as crowdsourcing data from other detector owners?

I don't think so.

If you've got time on your hands and you’re satisfied with Waze, these options will take you down a rabbit hole of customization that may suit your taste. Were I attempting to break the Cannonball record again, I might be tempted by AL Priority, but I'm firmly in Escort's ecosystem camp.

Is K40’s Next Big Thing the Next Big Thing?

Back in the 80’s, K40 was the first company to offer a built-in system with front and rear sensors and a directional display. Their current halo suite, the RL360i + Dual Diffuser Optix laser jammers ($2499 + install), remains excellent by traditional standards. The laser jammers are software upgradeable via USB, but it lacks radar filtration upgradeability and integration with crowdsourced platforms.

Back to Waze, again.

K40 has a major product announcement coming. K40 was the thing until the V1 came along. Maybe they'll surprise us with something nuts, like two-way data sharing with Waze.

Now that would be something.

What if you don’t want to spend $3500+?

There are two standalone alternatives, but you lose the laser jamming, and you better not leave them on your windshield or in a door pocket if you park your car in a major metro area.

Option 1: Get a good phone mount, install Waze or Escort Live (subscription version), and buy the standalone Escort Max 360 for $649. I used one to set three Cannonball records last year, including the Key West to Seattle run in 45 hours and 24 minutes. It’s the wise man’s choice, ready to roll and easy to use.

Option 2: For the hardcore tinkerer on a budget, you can still go out and buy the old standard, the V1, mail it in periodically for the latest update, and don’t forget the concealed display kit. You’re at around $500 already, plus all the accessories you need to cobble together the functionality you want by adding the Bluetooth module, and third party software like YaV1 or V1Driver, and a good phone mount, etc. Then it’s time to watch a video about how to program it, then watch another video, then program it, then download something else that sort of works with Waze, and hope you got the frequencies right, then make a video about how your custom-built suite is better than anything else at any price, then start all over again because of some negative comments on Reddit.

Option 3: All of this is insane. Drive the speed limit. Get a driver. Wait for self-driving cars.

Alex Roy, entrepreneur, President of Europe By Car, Editor-at-Large for The Drive, and author of The Driver, set the 2007 Transcontinental “Cannonball Run” Record in a BMW M5 in 31 hours & 4 minutes, and has set multiple driving records in Europe & the USA in the EV, 3-wheeler & Semi-Autonomous Classes. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.