Love it or hate it, digital license plates are entering the market.
Last week, Sacramento became the first U.S. city to buy in to the idea, outfitting 24 of its Chevy Bolts with Rplate Pros, the computer-driven, networked license plates from Reviver Auto.
I caught up with Reviver CEO Neville Boston for some insight into where digital license plates may be heading, especially in terms of usage.
More than a year ago, when the digital plates were still very new, Boston described targeted advertising on the plates as one of the potential uses. The idea was that a parked car in a shopping center parking lot could be covered to a live mini-billboard.
“In a Home Depot parking lot, you could send ads that speak to what’s in a store,” Boston told me at the time.
But like many IoT innovations, things can change along the way. In the case of the plates in Sacramento, plans are to use them to oversee the movements and mileage of electric vehicles, receive a signal if a car is stolen and display messages, such as public service announcements and Amber Alerts.
The concept of networked license plates that can change on the fly are starting to gain some traction, especially in the context of connected cars becoming more of a reality -- an idea that can unnerve some current drivers.
“Autonomous vehicles are the best thing that happened,” Boston told me over the weekend. “A digital plate is not scary anymore.”
Ads on the plates? Not yet. “Sacramento wants to use the plates as a communications tool,” said Boston. “They want to know where the vehicles are, and this is cheaper than what they’re already doing.”
The digital plates are not targeted for individual consumers for various reasons, not the least of which is the cost, at several hundred dollars each. Auto dealers are warm to the idea of putting the plates on loaner vehicles and dealer fleets. I would expect car rental companies are taking a look at this as well.
Boston said the plates, which house GPS, accelerometer, RF sensors and storage, have to be approved by the department of motor vehicles and plate numbers always have to be showing when the car is being used.
The plates are likely to expand well beyond Sacramento, since several states already have moved forward to approve testing, along with Dubai, UAE, which already has a proof of concept agreement with Reviver to test the plates there.
The connected car won’t be connected only on the inside.