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California’s New Digital License Plates Display Custom Messages While Parked

Last updated: May 29, 2018
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Admit it: you’ve dreamed of having a hilarious license plate. We all have. Landing a sweet custom plate can be difficult, though, given the limitations of the medium and the competition for the funniest or coolest messages. Whether your dream plate reads “WTFOMG,” “PBJ TIME,” or the classic “8008135,” California will now let your wildest license plate dreams come true. The Golden State is launching a pilot program which will allow drivers to purchase digital license plates that display custom messages of drivers’ choosing – at least while parked. Will these digital plates become the norm?

For now, California’s revolutionary new digital license plates are only available for testing in Sacramento. The plates work similar to Amazon’s Kindle eBook readers, featuring a digital “e-ink” which can be configured to display carious messages. While cars are in motion, the plates display the standard license plate number, but when vehicles are parked the standard plate shrinks to the upper right-hand corner of the tag while a custom message can be displayed.

Aside from displaying custom messages which will no doubt spark a rise in Facebook posts of hilarious plates, California’s new digital license plates update the entire registration process for the 21st century. Rather than having to renew registrations and wait for a new sticker, these digital plates will update automatically once drivers register their vehicles online.

Even better, the new digital license plates will help combat auto theft. Once a car is reported stolen, the plates can be triggered to display the message “STOLEN” and even have location-tracking capabilities to allow police to easily track down stolen vehicles. Of course, while combating auto theft is great and all, many critics will no doubt accuse the plates of being one more intrusion into drivers’ privacy. And, being the 21st century and all, there is also the possibility that these tags could be subject to malicious intrusions or hacking since they are connected to wireless communication networks.

Before you move to Sacramento to finally realize your dream of having an “A55MAN” license plate, consider that the new digital license plates will cost around $700 and require a $7 monthly fee. Will the high price tag keep drivers away?