California Drivers Can Now Sport Digital License Plates On Their Cars

California Drivers Can Now Sport Digital License Plates On Their Cars
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A digital license plate made by Reviver in California on May 30, 2018. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images hides the caption

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Say goodbye to that rusty piece of metal. California drivers can now get digital plates under the new law.

Golden State has already tested alternatives to conventional panels, but the laws signed by Governor Gavin Newsom late last month apply to all drivers.

License plate-sized screens display the driver's license plate number and allow motorists to renew their registration automatically. Users can switch between light and dark modes and customize the tablets with custom banners.

California Congresswoman Lori Wilson, who sponsored the law, said it would make life easier for drivers.

According to ABC30 Fresno, "It's a convenient product and I want to give people a choice here in California."

Reviver, a company that provides digital license plates in California, said the technology is also legal for commercial vehicles in Arizona and Michigan, as well as Texas. The California company said 10 other states are also considering introducing digital license plates.

License plate tracking capabilities raise privacy concerns

The company's so-called RPlate can be equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS) and allows users, including employers, to track a vehicle's location and mileage.

The possibility has caught the attention of privacy advocates, but Reviver said it does not share the data with the California Motor Vehicle Administration or law enforcement.

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The RPlate can also display a message if the vehicle is stolen or has an amber alert, features that Wilson says are a boon to public safety.

“If I looked at the back of the car, if I was driving behind it and I saw that, I would be concerned and would be alert to what I could see,” Wilson said. She told the Los Angeles Times that privacy-conscious drivers could disable their car's GPS functionality.

About 10,000 California drivers purchased the RPlate during the pilot program, the company said, and that number is expected to grow as digital plates become available for 36 million licensed vehicles in the state.

A 2019 California DMV report found that apart from a few traffic stops by police that deemed digital billboards illegal, there were no major concerns from authorities or drivers about the new technology.

"The Department believes that the digital tag is a viable alternative to the tag and recommends making it a permanent option for Californians," the agency said in a statement.

Reviver offers a battery-powered version of the RPlate for $19.95/month and a wired version for commercial vehicles for $24.95/month.

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