What Is the Difference Between LIDAR and RADAR?

Sep 12, 18 by Jorian Goes

What Is the Difference Between LIDAR and RADAR?


Radio Detection and Ranging Units or RADAR transmit radio waves at a chosen frequency which reflects off a moving target car and returns to the device. The difference between the return frequency and the transmitted frequency is referred to as the Doppler shift or Doppler frequency, which is used in determining the speed of the target car. The greater the shift that is received by the device, the greater the target’s vehicle speed.

Aiming the radar device in the general direction of the target car allows the operator to get an instant reading. The radio waves usually shoot out in a cone-shaped pattern which covers approximately two-thirds of a football field at a wide range of 1,000 feet. The radar device will show the strongest return signal that it receives, and a Doppler tone will help the police officer in confirming that the reading is coming from the target vehicle.

Are Radar Detectors Legal in The State of California?

At one point or another, you have been cruising down the highway, and then a police car starts trailing you, and you suddenly panic. You check your speed and even try to recall what the speed limit is, and then wonder how long they might have been watching you. Maybe you have thought of purchasing a radar detector, and you are not sure if they are legal in the state of California.

Radar detectors are legal in the state of California. There are no laws against the possession of a radar detector, as long as you are not driving a commercial vehicle. If you wanted to use a radar detector in your commercial truck, car, or in any other vehicle, then you may need to consider your choices again. It is also good to note that the federal law forbids the use of radar jammers for military reasons. Therefore, it is good for you if you do not even think of going down that particular route. These devices are not just illegal in your vehicle; they are prohibited everywhere.

Disadvantages of Radar Detectors

Radar detectors come with several disadvantages. To begin with, radar is widely used in today’s modern society., and not just among law enforcement officers. Traffic lights, automatic doors, and also vehicles use radar technology. After a period of time, the use of radar is expected to grow, and this means your radar detector will give out false alarms frequently.

Of course, in case your radar detector gives out false alarms almost all the time, you will not keenly consider it or even use it, and so, what is the point of you getting one? If each time it beeps, you just take a look at it and ignore, then this device will have defeated its purpose.

Can I Be Ticketed for Using A Radar Detector?

Officially, you cannot be ticketed for using a radar detector. Police officers will use their discretion when it comes to giving out tickets. They can give you a warning and then send you on your way. However, in case they see a radar detector placed on your dashboard or attached to your windshield, then they may decide to give you a traffic ticket when they would have usually not given you one.

It is also good to note that in case the radar detector blocks your view when driving in any way, the police officer may decide to give you a ticket for driving a vehicle with an obstructed view. Therefore, mounting the radar detector on the windshield is not a good idea unless you keep it extremely low or near out of sight.


Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) is one of the most recent devices that is being used by police officers in measuring speed. It is also commonly known as a laser. LIDAR devices use an infrared light wave that is emitted at frequencies which allow the beam to be concentrated into a very narrow target area. The LIDAR device is usually used in hand-held mode. Though they can still be used through the glass, it can significantly reduce the range of the device; thus, exterior use or using it with an open window is recommended.

LIDAR is very popular with the frequency of consumer’s radar detectors. The detection of laser beams is possible. However, the devices which detect the laser beams are limited when it comes to their effectiveness. This is because when the LIDAR device intercepts the laser beam, it will correspond with the clocking of the car with the LIDAR device. Additionally, a majority of LIDAR devices are placed inside the car, and this limits their detection by another LIDAR device.

What Is the Maximum Targeting Range of a Police Officer’s LIDAR Device?

The LIDAR’s device range may be more than 2,000 feet (that is more than 1/3 a mile). However, its functional range without the use of a tripod is restricted by the width of the infrared beam relative to the size of the target, the target’s reflectivity, atmospheric conditions, the age and cleanliness of the Lidar lens, whether the Lidar device is getting directed via a windshield, and the ability of the operator is to keep the device steady. Some of the laser guns come with a distance range of between 20 feet to 2,000 feet plus.

Laser devices can be effective in measuring the speed of vehicles that are far away, much further than the conventional police radars. This makes it difficult for the drivers to know whether they are being targeted or not. This is because it is very difficult to spot the police officers from the extreme targeting distances that they are being operated from. Some laser gun manufacturers claim that they have products that can successfully measure a speeding vehicle that is 4,000 feet away and even more. Some Lidar devices can take photos that show the vehicle and its speed, and this makes it extremely difficult for drivers to fight the speeding ticket in a traffic court.