GR8I-DEA or 2F-INDUM? Digital License Plates Proposed in California


In the ongoing effort to keep our minds on anything but the road, I give you yet another techno-distraction for our short attention spans. Joining the hallowed – and too often deadly – ranks of in-car DVD players, one-eyed and one-fingered texting, and your overly enjoyable GPS “movie screen,” the license plate in front of you (read: if you’re close enough to”¦) could soon turn into your latest source of news and information and god knows what else.

It’s amazing what folks will consider doing when they’re broke.

To wit, tech-giddy and cash-starved-to-the-tune-of-$19 billion California, where the state Legislature is considering a bill to authorize researching electronic digital license plates. These (essentially) rolling billboards, look like normal license plates when a vehicle is moving, but come to a stop for more than four seconds (in traffic?) and action! Feast your eyes on ads or other very important stuff that you need to know right away, from a viewpoint where you need it the most – in front of your face while you’re behind the wheel.

The bill’s sponsor, Senator Curren Price of Los Angeles, said California would turn to such a money-making technology if it passes DMV muster. That’s cool. We all know the DMV’s sensitive human heart puts people first, right? Oh, and, if the plates get the DMV go-ahead, advertisers would contract directly with – oh my! – the DMV, meaning more coin for the pretty-much-flat-broke state.

“We’re just trying to find creative ways of generating additional revenues,” Price told AP. “It’s an exciting marriage of technology with need, and an opportunity to keep California in the forefront.”

One San Francisco-based start-up called Smart Plate is developing such a device. The company’s chief executive, M. Conrad Jordan, says it’s not just about ad revenue, but that the plates could be used to display favorite sports teams or alma maters. Think bumper stickers go live.”The idea is not to turn a motorist’s vehicle into a mobile billboard,” he says, “but rather to create a platform for motorists to show their support for existing good working organizations.”

While we like the idea of fewer aluminum license plates mucking up the world, we reckon crushed steel might end up being a bigger problem here.

Image: Brett L

Scott Adelson

Scott Adelson is EcoSalon's Senior Editor of HyperKulture, a monthly column that explores opening cultural doors to initiate personal change. He is also the author of InPRINT, which reviews and discusses books, new and old. You can reach him at