State of South Carolina officials are considering adopting the use of electronic license plates or e-tags, giving power to the Department of Motor Vehicles to display messages on the plates on the backs of vehicles. Some examples of the messages were "uninsured," "suspended," "stolen," "expired," and "amber alert."
Try out the private S.C. company Compliance Innovations website and scroll over the top to view how the electronic license plate works. Imagine driving down the road and watching these messages flashing on other cars. The image needs no power for over 10 years unless the status or image on the plate is changed.
With the recent news about privacy invasion and the National Security Agency, the timing may not be the best for public acceptance of the idea. There has already been encroachment on mobile phone, DNA, emails and now license plates? The DMV would be able to send a signal to the plate to change the wording but could only track where you are with three court orders, to the DMV, law enforcement and and the cellular carrier.
Watch the attached video for more details. In it, Jason Torchinsky explains that "Essentially what they are planning on building is a Kindle, an e-paper display, some sort of network connection and a little bit of logic to display images on a screen." He says it looks like the plan is for a color e-paper display like Ricoh developed in 2013. As a low power device tablet, it is designed to simply display the license plate and any messages the DMV decides to use.
Jason makes the point that an important consideration would be the hacking factor. As he suggests, what could be funnier than flashing an amber alert on your friend's car? Not so funny would be the penalty if you were caught.
As Amir Iliaifar, Associate Automotive Editor at Digital Trends says, "Like any new technology you're going to have people weighing the pros and cons, looking at how it's going to benefit consumers at large, how it's going to benefit the industry and if there's any sort of consideration or benefits with state and local government." Designers insist they will protect information but people will be skeptical.
Drivers will have added incentive to comply with insurance and registrations laws. Insurance company losses should decrease resulting in lower insurance premiums. Governments should have increased revenues. It is estimated that S.C. loses $150 million yearly because of drivers with expired tags or without insurance. Law enforcement's job should be easier identifying offenders, stolen vehicles, violations. Highway safety could improve.
Currently Compliance Innovations proposes that the state begin a pilot program using e-tags on state-owned vehicles as soon as the size of the prototype e-tags is reduced to the current tag size. Cost is still a factor since metal tags are only $3 to $7 and the e-tags are still trying to get under $100.
No green details yet on the environmental impact of switching from metal to e-tags, but fewer accidents would be an improvement in saving material resources for the vehicles.