We live in a digital world – and the next car you see may prove the point if the owner has swapped out a traditional metal license plate for a digital one.
Just like the video signboards popping up along American roadsides, digital license plates are gaining traction on the road itself, with Michigan and Texas becoming the third and fourth state to approve the technology. And “more than 10 additional U.S. states” are now in the approval process, according to California-based Reviver, the company marketing the technology.
The technology isn’t cheap – costing as much as $1,200 over a four-year period if you opt for the RPlate Pro system. And just how many motorists would be willing to shell out that sort of cash to have a more visible license plate on their vehicle is a long-term question. But Reviver claims that the technology does offer numerous advantages over conventional plates.
License plates have been around seemingly forever, police in Paris requiring motorists to register their vehicles only a few years after Carl Benz built what is generally credited as the first true automobile. And personalized “vanity” plates are a common site. But Reviver’s RPlate and RPlate Pro technology takes things to a new level. Among the features:
- Motorists can renew their registrations through the Reviver app and the plates are automatically updated;
- The plates offer numerous customization options beyond displaying the normal vanity message. A driver can add a customized banner message, as well, and the plate can be programmed to switch between light and dark modes;
- Reviver also can trigger safety messages, such as Amber Alerts;
- And the RPlate Pro adds tracking features using a built-in GPS-based transponder.
That could prove particularly useful for fleet operators looking to track their vehicles, though private owners also might find it useful to locate a vehicle in a crowded parking lot, or if it were stolen, using the Reviver app.
A hefty fee
Traditional license plates aren’t necessarily inexpensive, some states charging hundreds of dollars to register a vehicle each year. Reviver tacks on a fee of its own, and it isn’t cheap.
The RPlate goes for $861.60 for a four-year subscription, or $215.40 annually. That jumps to $957.60 if you prefer to pay on a monthly basis. The basic mode is battery-powered. The RPlate Pro’s added technology requires being hardwired, the company charging $150 for installation. And an owner then forks out anywhere from $1,101.60 to $1,197.60, depending on whether they pay up front or on a monthly basis.
Oh, and as Autoblog points out, should you fail to pay up, the plate will display “INVALID,” likely getting quick attention from the first police cruiser you pass by.
More states could follow
California was the first state to approve the use of digital license plates in 2018, Arizona following a year later. Michigan becomes third and says the technology will be available at a numerous of Secretary of State offices. And Reviver is heavily incentivizing dealers to offer the technology, as well.
“Drivers deserve a modern licensing solution that works for the way we live today,” said Neville Boston, Reviver’s co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer, in a statement announcing Michigan’s approval of the digital plates
Texas is the fourth state where the digital plate has been approved – though only for commercial vehicles at this point. But Reviver says others could begin lining up.
Plans are in various stages of adoption,” it claims, in “more than 10 additional U.S. states.” Florida and Colorado have already begun taking the necessary steps towards authorization.
A long history
License plates have evolved significantly since France first required motorists to register their vehicles in August 1893. Germany followed three years later.
In the U.S., New York became the first state to require some sort of visible owner registration in 1903, specifying only that a plate show black numerals on a white background. It was the owner’s responsibility to come up with the plate itself. And it was common to make them out of leather or wood, as well as metal. Later that year, Massachusetts became the first state to actually provide official plates to motorists.
But an even more significant development took another 25 years. It wasn’t until 1928 that Idaho put a logo on its plate, promoting the “Idaho Potato.” Today, that’s the norm, while most states also allow motorists to order personalized plates for as much as an $80 fee. And while such “vanity” plates might seem a distinctly California phenomenon, 16.2% of Virginia motorists opt for these, the highest level in the U.S. The Golden State isn’t even in the top 10.