At the moment, license plates are one of the few aspects of a car that have remained practically the same since the invention of the automobile. Almost all other parts have become more sophisticated, which has resulted in vehicles that are more fuel efficient, have better performances and are more eco-friendly, and it seems that now the time has come for plates to undergo a major makeover. While proponents of electronic license plates claim that digitalizing license plates has many benefits, there are some reasonable concerns about the negative effects it might have, especially on people’s privacy.
The main reason why some states are thinking about issuing digitalized LPs is to make the vehicle registration process simpler, more efficient and more convenient. It would allow state DMVs to process license plate applications much faster, and some say that it would help state agencies save a lot of money. For example, some legislators in California have said that the state DMV could save about $20 million a year, since it won’t have to mail renewal stickers and paper registration cards to drivers. However, there is no information on how much it would cost to produce millions of digital plates.
In addition to modernizing the registration process, electronic license plates could help law enforcement agencies track car thieves and other criminals, as well, which means they can help make streets safer. Also, DMVs will be able to use these plates to display messages on them, regarding an expired driver’s license or registration.
As far as disadvantages are concerned, the biggest issue is that authorities could use electronic registration plates to invade people’s privacy. The government could easily use them to track your location at any given moment, and collect and store that information for an indefinite period of time. That’s why privacy groups are adamant that some sort of legislature has to be created, that would regulate how states can use the data collected through digitalized plates, and who will have access to that information.
No one can tell for sure when and if digital LPs will become a reality, but for now, there are a couple of programs that could give us an idea of how license plates may look in the future. In California, there is a three-year program to install digital license plates on 160,000 vehicles, and production costs will be covered the company that manufactures the plates, called Smart Plate. Similar pilot programs were launched recently in New Jersey and South Carolina, as well.
While privacy concerns are a real issue that will have to be resolved so that electronic license plates can be accepted by the general public, they do provide some very good benefits, so it’s an idea that is worth pursuing and they will probably come into effect in the near future.