California might test digital license plates


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A bill making its way through the California state legislature would create a pilot program to test digital license plates that could save the state up to $20 million annually on postage for renewals.

The bill, first reported by the Sacramento Bee, would provide as many as 160,000 cars throughout the state with the digital license plates patented by San Francisco’s Smart Plate Mobile.

The plates would have a digital screen and wireless capabilities that can be registered electronically and even be used to pay tolls automatically. Instead of a metal license plate, the digital plate would be a computer screen, slightly larger than an iPad.

Supporters of the measure said the digital plate would look similar to the current plate, but would also be able to register FasTrak tolls and display Amber Alerts to other drivers.

The bill, however, did not allow for advertisers to buy space on the digital plates. A 2010 bill previously made it permissible for advertisements to run on cars that stopped for more than a few seconds.

Privacy advocates have come out strongly against the measure.

“It means everyone driving in California will have their location accessible to the government at any time,” Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Sacramento Bee.

The pilot would run for three years and be managed by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, focusing mostly on vehicle fleets owned by large private companies who traditionally spend a large amount of time managing registration renewals.

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California, State & Local News, States, Transportation