If you are already thinking “wtf!”, you are not alone.
In 2010, word reached the 4 corners of the earth, California was readying up a bill to propose digital license plates with advertisements displayed publicly on the American road network.
And, no. This wasn’t an April fool’s joke - it’d be an elaborate one, but no, we’ve already checked - and it was as real. This is California after all, the same state that elected “The Terminator” RIGHT?
The idea was for all state-registered drivers in California to be issued with digital number plates, meaning no one driver was exempt. The state would then use this huge advertising network for renting space on number plates to private companies.
Food-for-thought: Developers of AdBlock, and concerned citizens - you might want to read on.
So, electronic number plates… hoo haa… it was bound to happen right?
Back in 2010, California was broke. The state wanted to spring up an additional revenue stream to combat the state’s $19 billion deficit. You’re probably asking yourself “why can’t they just fix their tax system hit with loopholes and generous corporate tax breaks?”.
With 57 Fortune 500 corporations calling California their home and paying little to no tax at the time of this idea - keeping the world’s most influential companies and hitting them hard with legislation, was going to be no easy feat.
The electronic license plates were designed to display regular registration plate numbers when in motion (driving) and would switch to advertisements when stationary beyond 4 seconds. Much like how engine stop and start features work in cars of today.
While the idea is remarkable in its creativity in bringing in more money for the state, we think it’ll fall short for 5 simple reasons mentioned below.
You see, because all drivers would have been affected, those with illustrious Bugatti Chiron’s and Pagani Huayra’s will also have had to comply or fall foul. Imagine a “Jimmy’s School Shoe Shop” advert on fancier sports cars the owners have worked so hard to maintain status and image. Just imagine an M4 Competition Package with an advert asking you to head down to the central district to purchase cuddly toys and plush puppies.
If billboards weren’t enough to stray away from your most important senses, now you have number plates amassing the entire colour spectrum - and forcing your car insurance company to sink into depression. We’re certain one of the reasons this kind of number plate didn’t initially pick up, was due to a heavy onslaught of lobbyists and agencies proving this idea to be ill-conceived.
Although it sounds like something off Minority Report, electronic number plates will likely have seen a hack or 3 during its rollout phase. If autonomous cars running hundreds of millions of lines of code were easily ‘accessible’ by script kiddies and full-fledged coders; David Barzilai of Karamba Security had noted “just one hack can affect more than one million cars” as Chrysler had recently proved. Chrysler had to fix over 1 million cars due to a security flaw in its vehicles, in 2016.
So let me get this straight. The state of California intended to use electronic number plates to monetize the advertising network and keep the money for themselves? Yes, indeed.
The big issue in regards to this grand idea is - the drivers won’t benefit much. “Where’s my money? It is my car after all…” is a line that is likely to prop up - should this idea have gone through. If revenue sharing possibilities were on the table - we think it would have been easier to implement with road users’ welcoming the idea with full arms.
What happens when you’re Dell or your Acer notebook goes haywire? You might end up smashing up your computers’ - but the heart of the problem is the software - not the hardware. What would happen if the number plate software fails? Or the digitizer breaks? Who’s going to fix it? Who’s responsible? If an electronic number plate was to malfunction and the police couldn’t identify the number plate, would you be fined? If so, what’s to stop criminals taking advantage of this? We see this as potentially a huge problem for the authorities.
Fast forward to 2017. We have a new summoner of the electronic number plate, and they’ve gone so far to call this the “first-ever, interactive digital license plate” in North America.
It’s called the ‘rPlate™’, and it’s by a company called Reviver - who wish to modernise the 125-year-old license plate. It’s essentially what the state of California wanted to introduce, but couldn’t at the time, so Reviver figured it’d be the bigger guy to get things in full motion.
To no surprise, states which wish to use this new number plate tech include; California, Florida, Arizona, and Texas in 2017. It’s important to note, this is experimental technology and is currently isolated for potential use in North America only, as of the time of writing.
There’s always high-quality custom show plates to advertise your own messages. And, with our easy-to-use plate builder tool - you can design your own adverts in minutes - and have it sent to your door right away! (You must order before 2pm for same-day postage)