In 2010, California considered switching to digital license plates, complete with pop-up ads -- and the state is looking into similar legislation yet again.
Through Senate Bill 806, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can, at no cost to the state, create a three-year pilot program with as many as 160,000 cars testing digital plates -- essentially a 12-inch-by-6-inch computer screen with "California" in red across the top and license numbers in blue, the Sacramento Bee reported.
California hopes the technology, patented by San Francisco-based Smart Plate Mobile, will not only improve efficiencies in vehicle registrations, but also save the DMV some of the $20 million it spends each year on postage for renewals.
The program, run by the DMV, would test the digital plates on California roadways. And according to Jim Lites, a lobbyist hired by Smart Plate Mobile, the pilot would likely focus on vehicle fleets owned by large private companies -- companies that often spend much time managing the various registration renewals of fleet vehicles to ensure they're up to date, the Bee reported..
Unlike the 2010 legislation, seen as a potential revenue generator since the DMV could have sold ad space on the plates, ads are not included in the current bill -- which will focus on vehicle registration efficiencies that can be created, Lites said.
"Let's focus on that and let the Legislature decide what they would like this technology to do, assuming this pilot is successful," Lites told the Bee.
The bill, which cleared the Senate and is now in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, has many supporters, but no opposition is listed. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, however, said it's both surprised and disappointed that the bill is proceeding without serious exploration of the privacy risks.
"Just because it's a pilot doesn't excuse the Legislature of responsibility," said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the nonprofit group.
Although concerns over privacy have, in fact, come up, Lites dismissed them given that this is an opt-in program and security controls will be in place to protect information.