State interest in digital license plates has steadily grown, thanks to their connected vehicle capabilities, customized messaging and geo-location potential.
It may be the most enduring, low-tech, piece of a car to remain unchanged in more than 100 years. Until now.
Car owners in Arizona and California can upgrade their metal license plates to an electronic, digital version, opening the door to easily changeable plate numbers, messaging, and even a “find my vehicle” feature, thanks to the technology’s wireless connectivity.
“The Arizona Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Division, is always looking for ways to use technology to improve customer service,” said Doug Nick, a spokesman for the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) at Arizona Department of Transportation.
The electronic plates are developed by Reviver Auto, a company based in Foster City, Calif., in the Silicon Valley. Company officials worked with the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division for about a year to develop the Arizona plate, testing them in pilot applications in settings as hot as Phoenix and as cold as Flagstaff.
“So that gave us a unique opportunity to pilot this and see how these did in intense sunshine, the heat, cold, snow, rain, everything,” Nick explained.
The electronic plates come in two versions: Rplate Essential ($499) and Rplate Pro ($799).
“The Rplate Pro includes advanced telematics that can be used to manage and locate vehicles, log trips — including date, time, distance and route — and set geo-fence notifications,” said Neville Boston, CEO and co-founder of Reviver Auto.
The plates must be purchased from Reviver, or the firm's partner retailers. They are not available from the Arizona MVD.
Reviver also announced a new partnership with Susan G. Komen of Los Angeles County, which is the nation’s largest chapter for the breast cancer foundation. The partnership will enable the display of Susan G. Komen logos on Rplate holders for drivers who want to share their support of the organization. The digital license plates are available in California via participating dealers and pro shops. In June 2018, the city of Sacramento equipped a handful of its vehicles with Rplates, in part, to better manage the fleet via the plate’s connected vehicle technologies.
Michigan recently passed a law to allow for the development of electronic plates. Other states, including Texas, Florida and Washington, are also exploring the technology.
Connected vehicle technologies are still largely in their infancy, but catching on as more local and state transportation agencies explore new approaches to manage traffic and put in place foundational infrastructures to support emerging autonomous vehicle technologies.
The Rplates can be attached to almost any vehicle, assuming it has a 12-volt power source available near the mounting area, say company officials. Also, the plates include encryption and security protocols to prevent hacking.
For now, the electronic plates may be more of a novelty. Conventional license plates in Arizona are free, though the state does charge a handful of nominal fees related to registration and titling, along with a vehicle license tax assessed at the vehicle’s value. These costs are standard. The charge for an electronic plate would be on top of those costs. (The state does charge extra for specialty plates.)
“In terms of a consumer, frankly, right now, it’s probably more of a wow factor, people who are technology minded, who want the newest thing, are going to be interested in this probably more than anybody else” said Nick. “But as with any new technology, that which is pretty expensive when it rolls out, if the marketplace wants it, it’ll roll down in price, and maybe more people will want it, if it’s something that people really do want.”