Radar Detector Integrated With Dashboard Display Screens And Steering Wheel Controls

CAN Bus hacking is all the rage right now. This particular project uses an early development version of an Arduino compatible CAN bus tool to integrate radar detector control into a Mazda dashboard. This image shows the output as the Whistler Pro-3600 radar detector boots up. The self test demonstrates what you would see on the dashboard display if your speed is checked using any of a handful of technologies. But it’s not just the dash display that’s working. The steering wheel controls are also capable of affecting the radar detector so that it can always be hidden from sight.

With auto manufacturers adding more numerous and larger displays to our vehicles it’s refreshing to see someone come up with a hack that makes pushing our own info to those screens possible. The CANBus Triple is an Arduino compatible board which patches into the data bus found in all modern vehicles. To integrate the Whistler for this hack [TheDukeZip] prototyped the interface on a regular Arduino board, then moved it over to the CANBus Triple once he had it working. Check out the video after the break to see the setup in action.

[Thanks Randy via Mazda Speed Forums]

55 thoughts on “Radar Detector Integrated With Dashboard Display Screens And Steering Wheel Controls

  1. I thought the article implied that there were steering wheel controls which would physically hide the detector from sight, not just disable functionality. Not to say this isn’t a cool hack, it is! Just a little misleading.

    1. I didn’t find it misleading all, and the post was accurate. The detector package itself is not as visible to a LEO as it would be if it where dash or sun visor mounted with a power cable dangling. And the steering wheel button can turn it off so the display is not going to be visible to a LEO

      1. “The steering wheel controls are also capable of affecting the radar detector so that it can always be hidden from sight.”

        It just reads differently to me, maybe it’s just me?

    1. I was under the impression that CAN-bus specs were vendor specific, making this very not easy to detect unless you have the specific protocol used.

      Phones are pretty much a standard so obviously creating an ‘on site phone scanner’ would be a LOT easier than a ‘car scanner’.

      If you have some information to the contrary, please, enlighten me/us!

        1. From the link I included;

          “How the bus is laid out is specific to each car, so you may want to search for the service manual of a specific model, where you can usually found information on the physical bus topology. Some really complex installation may also spot additional LIN busses behind CAN bus nodes… Do your own research!”

          ” You can attach a generic interface on it and send access generic OBD data, but if the vendor decided to use that bus for something else, you’ll also find a stream of vendor-specific frames, with real time sensor and control information, waiting to be reverse engineered.”

          “If you’ve read all the way through here I hope you’ve understood that you will have no idea of what’s attached to the bus until you’ve analyzed it. This also means that you don’t know what can break once you start poking on it, so this may be a good time for a bit of a disclaimer:

          You shouldn’t mess with your vehicle bus while it’s moving unless you are 100% sure of what’s going on. The chance of breaking something critical is high and you can hurt someone (possibly yourself) if you mess up”

          I think a massive factor is whether the vendor decided to go with generic OBD or whether they spruced it up a bit. Seems there are no rules, therefore no simple solution.

          1. They can have all the proprietary protocols they want, that doesnt change the fact it is still a CAN bus. You’re assuming there is a single layer when in fact there are multiple. See the OSI model for similar example. Just because something uses HTTP doesnt mean it isnt using TCP/IP as well.

        2. That’s like saying “TCP/IP is standard, therefore you automatically know the capabilities/purpose/hardware specs of every machine that is connected to the internet”.

          Even if one could reliably enumerate all nodes on a CAN bus, it would reveal shit-all about the purpose of each node.

    2. I don’t know a thing about the buss technology. Appears that code had to be written so that the steering wheel buttons could be used to control the detect. Couldn’t code be used to mask the detector from what I’d assume would be generic scanners used by LEOs? For example make it look like a sound system component, the LEO on patrol isn’t going to have the time confirm that such a component is actually installed. In states that have annual inspections( KS isn’t one fortunately) would be where the deception could be discovered if this becomes to be known as common place.

  2. It’s more about integration than ‘hiding’ it from law enforcement. FYI – the police do not need access to search your can bus or even look into your windshield or front grill (where many “hide” their radar detectors). Just like a radar detector detects radar, the same company who sells this technology also sells detectors for law enforcement to detect radar detectors..

    1. detecting of detectors is a myth … they only receive not transmit so it would be impossible unless the company puts beacons inside of them that you can easily remove and the market is way too big for companies to put in beacons and not sell thousands of units to make a few bucks off selling a few detector detectors to cops

          1. Lurk more and learn to read the previous comments, exit was referring to probing the bus. If you have that much access to a vehicle, then presumably it has been pulled over for speeding or another infracation, cops could certainly point a radar gun at it and see if it beeps.

          2. @Matt
            No need for hostilities. And no Exit was in fact talking about the afor mentioned RDDs. While your method of radar detector detecting would certainly work. He was not talking about probing the CANbus in the post I was responding to. He specifically states: “…the police do *not* need access to search your can bus….the same company who sells this technology also sells detectors for law enforcement to detect radar detectors. ” emphasis added.

          3. Furthermore, thanks to the miracles of non-ideal mixer behavior and IF leakage, superheterodyne FM receivers (the most common type) leak interference which tells you which frequency they’re tuned to. Companies like Nielsen ratings mount equipment on billboards to gather this info about passing traffic, which is then used to determine listenership.

      1. I’m pretty sure there is no need to install a “beacon” inside a radar detector to facilitate is presence to a LEO. Radar detectors being superheterodyne radio receivers have a local oscillator. While the signal it radiates may be weak, that weak signal has been used to detect the presence of a radio receiver for decades. However in that the modern RF environment that may contain many microwave signals, use of such a detector would create another grounds to dispute a speeding ticket with, for those who can afford to do so. Such detection receivers can be made by anyone, so the detector manufactures can, can insulate themselves from being known as a manufacturer of the detector detectors. Personally I’d think the possibility of increased successful court disputes, would temper the purchase of the detector detectors.

      2. Every conversion receiver contains a very low power “transmitter” called local oscillator. You don’t usually detect a local oscillator unless you’re very very close or use a very very sensitive receiver. The military and law enforcement organizations have very very very very sensitive receivers plus the power to get very very very very close to you for scanning.

      3. Radar detectors can indeed be detected. Early detectors with a noisy LO would actually set off other detectors. There are a few tricks that can hide the local oscillator from being detected, but most radar detectors don’t have those by default.

      4. I was a Radio Tech for the Virginia State Police in the 90’s. I got to play with several that required repair. Radar detector detectors work by picking up leakage RF from low-cost designs. It will not detect the old passive “fuzz buster”. If you built your own using isolators to seperate the antenna from the mixer (as well as good shielding practices) you might “pull it off”.

    2. Radar detector fanatic here. Detecting radar detectors is definitely possible, albeit not reliable or likely to hold up in court. More expensive radar detectors (more sensitive) will actually will often pick up Ka band emissions and report them as junk radar signals being emitting from cheap detectors (i.e. Cobra, etc.) which have low quality superheterodyne receivers.

  3. putting legal issues aside this is a nice hack … my lidar detector always gets in my way driving than my power port is now used so i cant charge my phone and all of this fun stuff

  4. Hey all, this is TheDukeZip, the creator of this project! I was very shocked to see my project made the front page of this site, awesome!

    I did want to clarify from the comments – where I live radar detectors are not illegal. The primary motivation for this project is to use a ‘remote mount’ detector (you mount the detector part in the grille of your car) because it is a huge inconvenience to take the radar detector off your windshield and hide it every time you park. They are still popular for ‘smash and grab.’ And if you have ever had your car broken into, you know you find that glass in your car FOREVER. But I still like the stock look, the remote mount units come with a small display/control unit that I don’t want to have in my cabin unless I were to spend mega $$$ to get a super custom fit in my dash – just not worth it.

    I will try to update my page at some point to clarify there is no functionality loss, all the stock controls and displays are maintained.

    Thanks for checking it out!

      1. +1

        …also, speed traps. And honestly, sometimes it’s just nice to have a head’s up when there’s LE in the area running traffic. That way you have a chance to make sure you don’t give them any other excuse to pull you over. A warning, or a ticket that can be easily dismissed is still an inconvenience and wastes your time.

    1. There’s an enormous body of data on speed and speeding, and it all shows that it’s not speed that’s dangerous, it’s speed *differential.* If a road has a 50mph limit and most people go 60, it’s actually more dangerous to go the limit, especially if traffic is fairly heavy and you have a constant stream of cars roaring up on your bumper then moving over to pass you.

  5. Couldn’t an SDR-board be used as the radio-detector? That would make it very hard to proof you’re using a radar-detector. You just need an emergency button to change the configuration of the system to something legal/plausible.

    1. It’s funny you mention this! One of the next projects I have in mind for my car involves an SDR.

      What you are saying is feasible yes. The super cheap SDRs on the market won’t stretch anywhere close to the frequency band used by police radar. Even one of the higher end SDRs I have only gets up to about 5 GHz. Plus you’d be missing out on LiDAR detection. But certainly a fun feasible project – you could certainly do some interesting things with filtering. A laptop in the car could do processing or maybe one of Adapteva’s Paralella boards. Hmmm…. ;)

  6. I would like to see some statistics for people who speed with radar detectors vs. those who speed without. I have a few friends with radar detectors and they have quite a few tickets. I drive as fast or faster than them, have never used a radar detector, drive a similar car to both, and I have one ticket in 12 years.

    Has anyone seen such research? I would really like to tell my friends that they are wasting their money, turn it into a bet that I win, and reap the wonderful prize of free beer. It’s October, after all.

      1. Brandon,

        My only ticket is from approximately 1/2 mile away – It was almost 2500ft from me when he hit me. By the time you get a LIDAR warning, your speed has already been measured.

        I suspect that there is absolutely no benefit to radar detectors nowadays. All of the guns are instant-on, and they can read multiple Doppler streams simultaneously. Because I do not have a radar detector, I actually pay attention to what is in front of me and hints to changes in terrain that would allow for a cop to hide, etc – This is how I drive just as fast as my friends, but don’t get all the tickets :)

        1. Still plenty of use for a radar detector. First pop radar can’t *legally* be used against you in court. Second, LIDAR is useless in a moving vehicle (moving cop). Third, lots of lazy cops that keep the radar on. Fourth, even off of pop you can get warning alerts 3 miles away off of another car.

          Your best LIDAR defense is a jammer, but you have to drive a lot for that to pay for itself. I don’t drive enough for a RADAR detector to pay for itself, and certainly not a LIDAR jammer.

        2. The purpose of my post was to mention that a high quality detector can detect the poorest and weakest of radar signals with a high degree of sensitivity. Those roadside radar signs are usually uncalibrated and emit extremely weak K band radar (the noisiest band) since they are for information purposes only.

          You should be able to pickup a real Ka band radar gun from over a mile or two away with a quality detector.

          This sign was also in a very busy metropolitan area, somewhere a cop would never be able to accurately lock on to a single vehicle until a hundred or so feet away.

          If you are the only vehicle on the road, then yes – instant on Ka band will likely result in you getting a ticket from a distance. Even X band could get you a ticket! Otherwise it’s really difficult for the officer to correctly lock on to your vehicle from such a far range with multiple moving targets.

          Also, you can typically anticipate instant on because the cop will be zapping other cars around you.

          LIDAR is still not used by many police departments, as it really depends on your jurisdiction, but you are correct, the LIDAR detectors built into radar detectors are junk because you have the highest probability of detecting LIDAR with the detector as low as possible on your windshield and the highest probability of detecting radar at the highest point. As soon as an officer hits you with LIDAR its over, thus you should mount the detector as high as possible and forget about LIDAR.

          The widespread adoption of LIDAR is likely what will kill the radar detector market since as another commenter posted, a jammer is your only viable option.

          The only problem with LIDAR is the aiming. You have to hit the license plate or a headlight/taillight. How many officers do you think could do that accurately from over a mile away?

          1. At 1 mile the lidar beam would be approximately 15 ft wide, so it wouldn’t be impossible to aim.

            As far as the proliferation of LIDAR, most big cities have it already, due to safety campaigns run and funded by…..YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY!!!

    1. The detector gives the driver a false sense of security, and they will tend to speed more, or more often. Not having the detector keeps one in the mindset that a speed trap could be anywhere, and will temper the “need for speed”.

      That’s just my dumbass theory, anyway.

      1. I suspect you’re about right, combined with some folks not thinking hard enough about how speed traps work. If the cop has some variety of instant-on speed gun and you’re at the front of a column of traffic, you’re going to be the first guy hit when the gun comes on. By the time there’s something to detect, it’s too late. In other words, a lot of folks don’t “get” that if there’s open road in front of you the detector won’t do shit.

        1. Also keep in mind that the doppler radar guns can read multiple doppler streams at once. They can aim it at a group of 3 cars and see all 3 car’s speeds, and it’s easy to know which car is the fastest just by superficial observation.

  7. You guys who don’t use detectors don’t know what the hell you are talking about, but opinions are like a**holes everyone has one.

    I have been using RDs for years now, along with millions of other smarter drivers. There are tens of thousands of us in communities on messageboards just like this one who take offence to your senseless drivel.

    Yes, you can detect “most” radar detectors with an RDD due to LO leakage, and cops don’t have to pull you over to use it, nor do they as it is a dash or windshield mounted device, it can pick up RDs from passing vehicles – although there are a couple of RDs that are immune by LO design and shielding. RDDs are used in places where RDs are illegal and for commercial vehicle enforcement, where using RDs is against federal law. Radar Detector Detectors ARE NOT made by the same companies that make radar detectors… But nice conspiracy theory anyway.

    Having, owning and driving with a radar detector doesn’t make you any more prone to speeding as someone without one. In fact, I say I speed less now that I own one than I did with one, AND I have less tickets (actually no tickets) now than I did when I was detectorless (lots of tickets) – WHY? Because I am more aware of my driving and my surroundings, I don’t just turn the RD on and floor it between point A and B and pray that the detector magically saves me. I would still have to slow down when a radar signal is detected, so now I drive with the anticipation that the detecor will go off at some point, which in turn makes me think about my speed much more often and it also has me looking out for cops that are possibly using their RF hold button (instant on). It also makes me more aware of speed traps and other legal hazards invinted to sperate me from my hard earned money (safety? psshhhh).

    Smart radar detector users, like myself, also tend to use “rabbits” or people who are speeding, want to be in front of the pack, or dumb enough to use a cheap RD like a cobra who we keep at a good distance in front of us (farther than you may expect, too). If a cop up ahead is using instant on, he’s going to drill that guy first and go after him most likely, not always, but more often than not, and “fastest speed vs. strongest signal” radar systems with “multiple doppler streams” still have the same working distance as dumb radar- in other words, My RD sees him LONG before his radar can get a return signal strong enough to detect my speed, and I’ve already slowed down by the time I’m in range. And those kinds of radar still only detect a couple of speeds and can only say what the fastest and slowest speeds are of any two targets or is said car is on-coming or moving away from from the radar, it still takes the cop to pick out which car is actually speeding and that kind of ambiguity is quite helpful to your defense in court, so a smart cop isn’t going to attempt to make a case with it anyway. Nor are they going to use POP, which is like someone above pointed out, a no-go in court.

    Lidar is “line of sight” – if you “detect it” it already has your speed – it is an ambush weapon that can only be used while stationary – it is not used to pick on radar detector users as much as it is useful for targeting specific vehicles because of it’s narrow beam width. A cop along a busy highway will have a better chance of making a case if he can say which car was actually speeding rather than clocking a swath of cars and “guessing” it was the red sports car… It’s the difference between a floodlight and a spotlight. You’ll see it more in cities or on highways that have high traffic flow for that very reason. Some lidar guns can also measure the distance between two cars which will then be used to make a tailgating or “following too closely” case against the violator. I won’t comment on lidar jammers…

    Instant on radar IS NOT a special feature – it is a TACTIC – pretty much all police radar systems in use today unless it is ancient or something has an “RF hold” button – which is a momentary button that simply cuts off power from the gunn diode (transmitter) of the radar, which in turn cuts off any transmitted radar signal. When you are rolling along, aloof and smug, and you pop over a hill or around a corner and johnny law sees you, he simply releases the RF hold button, and before you can react, he has your speed in about 1/3 of a second. HOWEVER – if you are SMART you don’t speed in those situations anyway! Again, there is ALWAYS someone dumb enough to play the rabbit, AND radar ALWAYS obeys the “radar range equation” which very basically means that power drops over distance and when it is re-radiated (reflected) off of a target – SO – your radar detector WILL alert you LONG before the radar unit itself can detect your speed!!! You simply have a stronger signal to detect than the cop does, ALWAYS.

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