There’s nothing like buying the love of your life a Valentine. Just don’t tell your wife about it.

I bought my Porsche its Valentine in 1994, and it still uses it today. I bought another one in 2008 for my Subaru that is used daily. These Valentine One Radar Locators (V1) are typically called by a more generic name. As an engineer, I call them microwave and coherent light data acquisition sensors. And as far as you know, that’s what I use it for—data acquisition.

Subaru’s Valentine
The Subaru’s Valentine mounting location

As someone who works with LIDAR and RADAR sensors, this can be very handy. For example, the Valentine can pick up infrared (IR) signals. These signals typically have a wave length around 900 nm. (Visible light is around 390 nm – 750 nm.) There are many vehicles that generated these IR wavelengths. Some Infiniti and Lexus vehicles have used LIDAR-based adaptive cruise control (ACC) for some time. Because of the range necessary to do ACC, the Valentine can detect such vehicles from 100 meters away if pointed right at the Valentine.

Volvo vehicles equipped with the City Safety option also generate infrared signals around this wavelength, but with much shorter ranges.

Older GMC Envoys (and Chevrolet Trailblazers) generated this wavelength from its neon center high mounted stop light (CHMSL). Waiting behind one of these vehicles, or having a Volvo right behind you at a stop light can be very annoying. They will constantly set off the LIDAR “data acquisition” of the Valentine.

By a strange coincidence, a police LIDAR gun, designed to measure an on coming vehicle’s speed, generates a wave length around 904 nm, which will be detected by a Valentine. From personal experience, this usually means that the LIDAR is pointed right at you when the detection occurs.

Most vehicles sold in America today use windshields that significantly cut down infrared transmission, which keeps a vehicle interior cooler. This can be as much as 60-80% reduction of the LIDAR signal getting to the Valentine One. If the Valentine One is behind windshield tinting at the top, that reduces the signal even more.

“Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.”
–Clifford Stoll

The Valentine One also happens to detect RADAR in the 24 GHz frequency range. There are quite a few sources of this signal. For instance, my older Valentine One is quite adept at detecting the RADAR from CVS automatic door openers.

There are also a few vehicles that generate this frequency range. For trucks, Eaton had developed its VORAD (Vehicle On-board RADAR) as a front facing RADAR unit used to warn drivers if they were dangerously closing in on a vehicle ahead of them. Audi Side Assist, which is used for blind spot detection when changing lanes, also works in the 24 GHz range. Early versions were developed by Hella. Valeo 24 GHz RADAR sensors are used in GM and Jaguar vehicles with blind spot detection. Some Mazdas also have 24 GHz RADAR blind spot sensor from another manufacturer. The Valentine One detects all of these, except for the Mazda. I have, however, seen other “data acquisition” devices detect the Mazda.

Although I’ve been referring to these sensors as 24 GHz RADAR, their exact frequency range may be something else. For example, the ISM (industrial, scientific, and medical) radio band for 24 GHz is actually 24.000-24.250 GHz. The K-band is 18-26.5 GHz, and the Ka-band is 26.5-40 GHz. I don’t know what exact radio frequencies those manufacturers above are using for their RADAR sensors, I just know that that Valentine One detects them. Some must be using ultrawide band (UWB), meaning the frequency range is at least 0.5 GHz, because the same sensor will register as K-band and then Ka-band (as if it was sweeping through those frequencies).

For the RADAR applications I’ve listed above, the range is general very short, around 10-20 meters. So, for example, as you’re about to pass a Jeep, at under 20 meters you may start seeing a signal on your Valentine One and peaks when you’re in its blind spot. (You may also see a small yellow light on the side mirror indicating to its driver of your presence.) The level may be high but may not reach the maximum count on your Valentine, however, due to FCC limitation on the output of these types of sensors. The signal may disappear completely after passing the vehicle, with just the possibilities of reflected RADAR signal bouncing back to the Valentine One.

A patented feature (expired since 2011) of the Valentine One is directional arrows showing where the RADAR signal is coming from. You can use this on the previous example to confirm that the vehicle is the source of the signal.

I encountered a BMW once that pegged the Valentine One at about half a mile behind it. That may have just been a vehicle with special equipment, as I drive by a lot of places where vehicle products are being tested.

An odd source of RADAR signals that I’ve discovered around the Detroit area is the typical temporary flashing “contruction ahead” sign you see before a construction zone. Many such signs have them, and I don’t know why. Also, on my drive to Pikes Peak last year, I encountered many Ka-band RADAR signals that seemed to come from the highway infrastructure at regularly spaced intervals. This was in cities like Des Moines and Omaha. My guess is they’re used for traffic monitoring, but I have no idea if that’s true or not.

And again, by an even stranger coincidence, a typical police RADAR gun also emits 24 GHz RADAR, which will be detected by the Valentine One. Most of the police in the Detroit area seem to be using Ka-band RADAR in my informal survey, with the rest using K-band. If you collect data like I do, you may have to separate these police signals from other vehicles on the road.

“Data is what distinguishes the dilettante from the artist.”
–George V. Higgins

Now, while I use and recommend the Valentine One as a data acquisition device (I like arrows), please feel free to use other manufacturers’ products, such as from Escort and Beltronics. Various sites have performed evaluations of these sensors. Pick which ever works for you, and soon you will be enjoying the thrills of finding new vehicles with LIDAR and RADAR sensors like myself. If only the police would stop using their pesky speed detecting devices which adds unwanted noise to this data collection, then this would indeed be a better world.

Rock beats RADAR and LIDAR, if you hit them right with it
Colorado Springs police officer using both RADAR and LIDAR. Because the police officer left the RADAR on, I was able to detect it at a far greater range than the LIDAR he was manually aiming at me.

“Experts often possess more data than judgment.”
–Colin Powell

Note: RADAR and LIDAR are acronyms, so I capitalized them to see how they would look. I have to say, I don’t like them capitalized.


July 7, 2012: I’m really annoyed by the Audis. These have rear facing 24 GHz radar with significantly longer range than the Chrysler or GM radar units. That means I can pick these up from 50-100 meters away. If an Audi with this radar is in front of you on the freeway during your commute, it will set off the “radar data acquisition unit” for quite a while.