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California Tests Digital License Plates

Sacramento, California —(Map)

US cars have had stamped metal license plates for around 125 years. Now that may be changing. California is testing a new, digital license plate.

The “Rplate Pro” is a digital license plate made by a company called ReviverAuto. The plate has an e-ink screen, like an electronic book reader, such as a Kindle. Unlike a regular screen, e-ink can show an image even without electricity. ReviverAuto worked with the company that makes GoPro cameras to make sure the license plate would be tough and waterproof.

The digital license plate has an e-ink screen and connects to the Internet like a cell phone does.
The digital license plate has an e-ink screen and connects to the Internet like a cell phone does.
(Source: ReviverAuto.)

The Rplate connects to the Internet like a cell phone does. The license plate’s e-ink screen makes it easy to change what the screen shows. This means that owners can update their plates over the Internet instead of having to wait in lines at government offices. The creators of Rplate think that this will save governments both time and money.

Currently US license plates are stamped in metal and stickers must be changed every year or two.
Currently, US license plates are stamped in metal, and stickers have to be changed every year or two.
(Source: Jerry “Woody”, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Neville Boston, who leads ReviverAuto, thinks that at first the digital license plate will be mainly for companies or groups that have a lot of cars. The Rplate can even show ads for these companies when it is parked.

Neville Boston started the company that makes the Rplate.
Neville Boston started the company that makes the Rplate.
(Source: Photo by © Martin Klimek, ReviverAuto.)

The Rplate can be tracked, which means the companies will always know where their cars are. If a car is stolen, the police will be able to find the license plate.

In the future, the company plans for the Rplate to show a “Stolen” message if a car has been stolen. They also think the Rplate could be used to show if owners have paid in parking lots or at toll booths.

In the future the Rplate may change its screen to show if a car was stolen.
In the future the Rplate may change its screen to show if a car was stolen.
(Source: ReviverAuto.)

The state of California is trying to find out if digital license plates are a good idea. They will test the idea until 2020. Up to 175,000 cars will be able to try the new plates.

But it won’t be cheap. ReviverAuto sells their license plates for $699, and users must pay $7 a month to keep the service.

Some people are worried about privacy because the Rplates can be tracked. The company’s website says that owners can turn off the tracking if they want.

The company says that the car owner can turn off tracking for the Rplate.
The company says that the car owner can turn off tracking for the Rplate.
(Source: ReviverAuto.)

That won’t make a difference for someone driving another person’s car, though. The city of Sacramento is starting its own test with 24 digital license plates. They say they will have to talk with their workers to make sure they don’t feel like they are being spied on.

California is not the only place where the Rplate is being tried out. Dubai recently agreed to run a test of the digital license plates.

Sacramento, California


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