Given that the vehicle registration renewal process can be a bit complicated, and that vehicle registration services create a drain on the resources of DMVs all over the country, ideas that could simplify this procedure and lower the costs involved in sending renewal notices and new registration stickers are more than welcome. Now, the DMV sends renewal notices to car owners whose vehicle registration is about to expire well in advance, along with a registration renewal application, and it’s all done by mail, which induces huge postage costs and puts a strain on the DMV’s budget.
DMVs spend millions of dollars each year on postage costs associated with vehicle registration and licensing, and they are looking for ways to streamline the process in order to reduce these costs. One of the potential solutions that have been taken into consideration by some DMVs is issuing electronic license plates, instead of the traditional metal plates that are being issued now. California and South Carolina have already approved electronic license plate pilot programs, with a certain number of vehicles awarded digital plates, to see whether it will help the DMVs save some money, and whether it can potentially have an impact on traffic safety.
California’s DMV plans to establish its program by 2017, when it is supposed to start issuing electronic plates to vehicle owners who will choose to participate in the project, but the program will be limited to 0.5% of all registered vehicles. The plates will basically look like computer screens, that will show the license plate number, but will also display various messages, such as “stolen” or “expired”. The 12-by-6-inch screens will be affixed to a vehicle, and will be wirelessly connected to the DMV, so that it could send updates to the plates. This way, police could locate stolen vehicle and track down car thieves more easily, which would definitely help improve highway safety.
Additionally, messages like “suspended” or “uninsured” could be displayed on the digital license plates, alerting law enforcement officers when a driver is operating a vehicle with a suspended license or without valid insurance.
As far as the technology behind these plates is concerned, they are going to be made of electronic paper, and will be covered by a transparent film with tiny solar panels to collect solar power and supply the plates with power.
However, there are a few issues involved in the use of digital license plates. For one thing, there is the privacy issue, with some valid concerns that the DMV could use the fact that it is wirelessly connected to a vehicle to collect location data from car owners and share that information with various government agencies. Also, the costs for manufacturing such plates might be an issue, given the technology that is involved, so they would obviously be much more expensive to produce, which would translate into higher registration fees for car owners. According to some estimates, the cost to make one digital license plate will be somewhere around $100.
Be that as it may, these high-tech plates will definitely help DMVs save a lot of money, as they will allow them to notify car owners that their registration is about to expire and renew their registration by sending messages to the plates themselves, eliminating the need for sending renewal notifications by mail and reducing long lines at DMV offices.