California may put electronic ads on license plates

Posted by Emma Woollacott

California is considering introducing electronic license plates that would raise money for the state by screening ads.

The plates would appear like standard license plates while the car was in motion. But they would switch to transmitting ads when stopped for more than four seconds, for example at a red light. The license number itself would still be shown in a smaller size in one corner.

The Department of Motor Vehicles would sell the ads itself directly to local or national businesses.

The license plates could also be used to transmit emergency messages or traffic information, and would allow the DMV to streamline the process of distributing, registering and activating license plates. It's supporters say it would also create jobs in the state.

“This legislation provides a unique opportunity for California to work in partnership with some of the state’s most innovative enterprises to rethink how we can use our most basic assets to achieve greater efficiencies and cost savings, while generating new revenues for the state,” said Senator Curren Price, author of the bill. 

California is currently facing a $19 billion deficit, and Price reckons the plan could at least help chip away at this. "State governments are facing unprecedented budget shortfalls, and are actively rethinking the use of existing state assets to create new ongoing revenue opportunities," he says.

The Senate has passed the bill unanimously and given the DMV a year and a half to investigate the technology, conduct trials and produce a report. The bill will be heard by the Assembly Transportation Committee today.