Thursday, October 05, 2017

License Plates Smarter Than Drivers

From the Department of What'll They Think of Next comes the latest high-tech idea: smart license plates.

I call your attention to this recent article from CNET: Dumb License Plates Are About to Get Smart. A new digital license plate called Reviver attaches to your car like any other traditional, convict-made metal license plate, but uses Wi-Fi connectivity and a connection to your car's power system to act like an electronic tablet and display registration (and other) data. The Reviver plate offers a number of possible advantages:

You could instantly update your registration without waiting for your state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to cash your check and mail you stickers to paste on the plate ... a signal from the DMV would remotely update the expiration month. This could also give the option for renewing registration month-to-month, for those who are trying to sell a car and don't want the hassle of trying to get their state to reimburse unused months of registration fees.

You could, theoretically, change the background design of your plate at will, using a menu of options similar to the list of plate designs already offered by most states. This would allow you to support your cause du jour without having to order new plates with the desired design.

If you got tired of your vanity plate message, you could apply online to change it and, once the new message was approved, you could download it and update your plate immediately.

The plate could link to your bank account and pay for parking by connecting to the payment system at parking garages.

Your plate could receive and project Amber alerts and other public service messages (although I'm not sure I'd want this without the ability to public service messages I didn't want or support).

It could streamline the management of large vehicle fleets.

And it could substantially reduce the risk of theft and fraud by ensuring that the plate wouldn't work if it was stolen and mounted on a different vehicle.

There would, of course, also be disadvantages:

The up-front cost of the smart license plate could be prohibitively high when compared to the cost of a traditional metal plate, at least when it was first issued and installed, although it might prove cheaper in the long run. Who would bear the cost?

Your state DMV could decide to generate additional revenue by pushing advertisements to your plate.

Like all Wi-Fi-enabled devices, it would be vulnerable to hackers who could change the plate number or use the connection to interfere with other electronic elements of the vehicle.

And finally, what happens if your car suffers a dead battery or an electrical system failure ... how do you prove to the suspicious cop or tow truck operator that it's really your car?

I think a Reviver-type automated license plate is coming ... it's a natural outgrowth of the available technology and the interconnectivity provided by the Internet of Things. My personal jury is still out on whether or not it's a good idea, but as nobody has asked my opinion, I guess I'll just accept it when it comes ... especially if it comes with an option to send messages to other drivers like, "Back off!" or "Turn down your $#%! high beams!".

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.



Mike said...

They're going to have to pry my metal plate from my cold dead hands. Besides, the convicts need the work.

John Hill said...

I already have a phone that's smarter than I am. Do I need a license plate that's smarter, too?

allenwoodhaven said...

I'd not heard of this. it is a terrible idea. I thought all the disadvantages, and more, would definitely happen and the advantages weren't important at all. Then I saw your suggestion to send messages to other drivers. THAT would be worth having! (Except you could, perhaps, make your message a different license plate.)

roth phallyka said...

Do I need a license plate that's smarter, too?