make sure it happens in a way that doesn't compromise public safety," Posner said.

Some questions and concerns include:

  • How would law enforcement identify a vehicle's ownership and status when the license plate is in advertising mode?
  • The driver's ability to disable the license plate identifying numbers and letters in an effort to avoid detection during the commission of a crime or while driving through a toll facility. 
  • The unintentional disabling of the plates' numbers and letters due to malfunction, accident or vandalism. 
  • Should an electronic plate, for some reason, remain in the advertising mode while the vehicle is in motion, it would create a safety hazard by distracting fellow motorists following it.

Some areas are already being addressed. For example, Bianchi said, the plates are being designed so that when a member of law enforcement is within a certain distance of a vehicle, its plate would be triggered to only show its license, temporarily disabling the ad feature.

Also noted in the bill is that due to a 2004 federal court decision, the state can't pick and choose to promote some organizations, while denying this right to others. Therefore, it's likely that the DMV would have to accept any "non-obscene messages" from any organization or company that wants to advertise itself through the plates, should they enter general use.

"While each of these issues can theoretically be addressed through technological means, those solutions are only as sound and reliable as the technology itself," according to the bill. "Finally, there is a generalized concern that in a society that is perceived by some to be vastly over-commercialized, this bill represents the breaching of yet another barrier between public and private functions."

The bill has so far received no formal opposition and has the support of sponsor Smart Plate. It passed unanimously through the Senate last month and is scheduled to be heard Monday, June 28, by the Assembly Transportation Committee.


Karen Wilkinson  | 

Karen is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.