The Next Generation of License Plates?

It took 125 years for the license plate to see its first innovation.

The inaugural round of digital license plates have hit the streets of California. Using the same technology as an Amazon Kindle E-reader, these plates open up all kinds of possibilities for users, the DMV, police and advertisers.

Experts say the plates will save California up to $20 million a year just on the postage required to mail out registration notices. But you’ll be paying for it. The plates retail for $699, not including installation, and include a $7 monthly fee. Drivers will have the luxury of skipping the physical tags they stick on their license plates each year (another cost break for the state). Car registration and renewal is automated and easy. Same with change of ownership. Paying tolls is a breeze, automatic and debited on the spot.

The plate itself is standard size, industrial strength, with a tamper-proof mounting, built-in anti-theft features and able to withstand extreme weather conditions.

If your car is stolen, police can tell exactly where to find it. The plates are also capable of tracking how fast you’re going, where you’ve been, where you went and how fast it took you to get there. That information is private, unless requested by subpoena or warrant. While most of us don’t want to be monitored so closely, that feature could be a useful tool for businesses to alert employers if the company vehicle strays from a certain assigned area. But users can turn off location data at any time.

Businesses can advertise and drivers can personalize (only when the car is stopped) with customized messages or logos. The plates are also capable of notifying other drivers of road closures, city services, Amber Alerts or other emergency information. When messages pop up, the license plate number will still be seen, but smaller and tucked into the upper right corner of the screen.

The California DMV will report the results of the pilot program to state Legislature by July 2020. Arizona is currently engaged in a smaller pilot program with a dozen state vehicles testing the plugged-in plates.


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