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CES: A radar detector that also alerts drivers to red-light and speed cameras

January 6, 2009 | 10:06 pm

LAS VEGAS -- Cobra Electronics has taught its radar detectors a new trick: they also detect red light cameras and speed cameras.

Cobra XRS 9960G The Chicago company does this by maintaining a database of intersections known to have red-light cameras and stretches of road with speeding cameras. The database currently has more than 5,000 intersections, speed camera locations and popular speed traps. But it's being updated twice a day by Cobra employees who are tasked with finding and verifying new locations by calling various cities, police departments and local businesses near major intersections. Due out in the spring, the detectors are priced from $389 to $439, depending on the model.

Users download the database and updates from their computers via a dongle that's equipped with GPS. Connect the dongle to the Cobra radar detector and, voila, you have the ultimate traffic ticket-avoidance device.

Of course, the company insists that its detectors exist to enhance safety; red-light cameras and speed cameras are generally installed in areas with high accident rates. To show that it means it, Cobra also included in its database intersections that have high accident rates but don't have the traffic robocops. It also detects signals that ambulances and fire trucks can use in an emergency to turn oncoming traffic lights green. In this case, the device encourages drivers to be more alert to these vehicles and drive more cautiously.

"It doesn't enable you to speed," said Christopher Kooistra, a Cobra marketing manager who showed us the device at a sneak preview for the media at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. "It simply warns you when you're under surveillance or when you're approaching a dangerous intersection."

Dangerous to your health, but at $250 or more for each traffic ticket, also dangerous to your wallet.

-- Alex Pham

Photo: Cobra XRS 9960G radar and laser detector. Credit: Cobra Electronics