Digital License Plate Allows Drivers to Display Any Personal Message

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If you've come up with the perfect message for your tags only to have it rejected, fear not.

New digital license plate technology promises to give auto owners much more freedom... for a price. Officials in Sacramento, California, are launching an experimental program aimed at providing these high tech tags. The program has been under development for the past several years. Now drivers are looking forward to unveiling custom messages as the first plates roll out. Since it's all digital, you won't need to peel and stick registration stickers, either. Of course, you need to be cool with the government monitoring your car's whereabouts as officials will definitely have that power.

How does it work?

The current design of the digital license plate uses a familiar display. Analysts have described it as similar to the look of the Kindle e-reader's e-ink. While the DMV still gives drivers in the pilot program a standard plate number, it is highly modified.

When the car is stopped, for example, the number will get smaller. The digital license plate displays the minuscule number in the upper right hand corner. In its place front and center is your personalized message. 

So far, proponents are limiting the project's scope to a small batch. The City of Sacramento is providing input as the program goes forward. The California Department of Motor Vehicles has coordinated with a company called Reviver Auto to produce them.

Who would want it?

You might envision an exotic car owner with money to burn as an early adopter. It might be true that luxury tech consumers will jump at the chance to display the new plates. But Reviver Auto founder Neville Boston sees a different clientele as more likely. He believes fleet vehicle companies and other businesses will seize the digital license plate tech. The tags can be used as ads on the road, though not rolling ads. The custom message will only be seen at intersections, parking lots and other places you stop. 

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Beyond the novelty factor, though, there are some practical benefits. You might consider the added safety benefit of having a digital link to your car's plate. For example, if someone ever steals your car, its digital license plate will say so. And then there's the minor but real benefit of skipping annual registration. These plates will update themselves as soon as you pay your fee online. 

How much does it cost?

As you might imagine, it isn't cheap to get in on the ground floor. But at the same time, if you're looking for this type of tech it might not be cost prohibitive. A plate in Sacramento's pilot program goes for about $700. Then there's another $7 monthly fee associated with the digital license plate. Considering how much some folks are willing to pay for classic vanity plates, that might be a bargain.

Beyond the monetary cost, though, you might want to consider the potential loss of privacy. When the City of Sacramento bought tags to keep up with its vehicles, employees cried foul. City officials will speak to representatives of staff impacted by the tags, according to reports. They will address concerns that the technology will be used to track employees, not just cars.

Digital license plate tech sounds cool. Time will tell whether it's here to stay.

These tags might seem interesting if you're considering the custom messages you can display. It is a novel approach to mixing tech with an age old automotive issue. There are obvious security benefits, but opponents are sure to continue making their concerns known. Will authorities misuse their ability to track us? That's been a recurring issue as technology has rapidly expanded its reach over the past decade. It seems there is no end to the number of gadgets we want to see injected with technology. The development of a digital license plate is just the latest chapter in this controversial trend.

Would you utilize a digital license plate? What would your message read? Let us know in the comments and share those you know with vanity tags.

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