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Digital License Plates Are Coming and They Could Be a Big Deterrent Against Auto Theft

May 30, 2018, 10:46 AM UTC

Californians might soon have the opportunity to get even more creative with their personalized license plates.

The state has been working on a new digital license plate that allows the user to display custom messages, and the city of Sacramento has agreed to be the first to test the plates, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The plates use the same technology as Kindles, displaying the standard license plate number (or customized plate) while the car is in motion, with the option of displaying a message when the car is stopped. The plate number will then shrink into the upper-right corner.

Those who choose to buy the new digital license plates can register their car electronically, eliminating the need to update the registration sticker each year.

The plates also feature a wireless communications system. That could make it easier to find a stolen car. Gizmodo reports that if a car is stolen, the plate will display the message “Stolen” and could be used to help both the owner and police locate the car—as long as the plate hasn’t been detached. Of course, some are already expressing concerns that the system would also allow law enforcement or even private companies to track the movements of the driver.

Nevertheless, Neville Boston, the founder of Reviver Auto, the plate’s manufacturer, suggests that they would likely be used for management of a company’s fleet of vehicles.

Before you get too excited though, the plates are expected to retail at a hefty price: $699 for the plate, not including installation costs. It does, however, come with its own computer chip and battery. The plates then incur a monthly fee of about $7. They are also not available directly through the DMV.

With the substantial price tag associated with the high-tech plates, it remains to be seen how widely they will catch on.