back to article California legalizes digital license plates for all vehicles

California has ended a pilot program and fully legalized digital license plates for private and commercial vehicles, which is great news for the one company that makes them. A bill, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, permits the California Department of Motor Vehicles "to establish a program authorizing an entity to …

  1. HCV

    What could possibly go wrong?

    A license plate that can be controlled by the authorities, for only $19.95 a month? By Grabthar's Hammer, what a savings!

    1. Phil Kingston

      Re: What could possibly go wrong?

      More can, and will, be controlled by anyone with a Bluetooth app and the right know-how once it's popped.

      Can't wait for the footage of California vehicles driving round with slow animating spunking cocks as rego plates.

      As a side thought, what happens if they drive across state lines and that state doesn't yet like e-ink?

      1. Zarno

        Re: What could possibly go wrong?

        Likely the sme thing as my car with out of state plate on the rear only, driven 90% of the time in a state that requires 2 plates: You get ignored 99% of the time, and if it does go to traffic court for that 1%, it gets thrown out since vehicle is legal in licensed jurisdiction.

        Still a weird idea for e-ink plate, unless for a rental fleet maybe? Or for temp parking without a receipt in a downtown center?

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: What could possibly go wrong?

          Yeah, generally speaking the Equal Powers clause means US states have to accept one another's license-plate rules.

          That said, years ago I knew someone who moved from Oklahoma (then a front-and-back-plate state; I don't recall whether it still is) to Massachusetts, which required a rear plate only. So he registered his car in Massachusetts, removed the rear plate, put the new Massachusetts plate one, and left the front Oklahoma plate in place.

          That worked for a few weeks until he got pulled over by an observant police officer, who was not pleased with this arrangement. The old front plate came off post-haste.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: What could possibly go wrong?

        "As a side thought, what happens if they drive across state lines and that state doesn't yet like e-ink?"

        I expect it is covered by Interstate Commerce laws the same way that one state can't cite a person with out of state plates if those plates are properly issued and registration paid.

        The fun will come when the plates fritz out and an out-of-state LEO has to try and look up the car's registration manually. I have a feeling that they don't bother too much with cars from another state, but would have to if the ePlate was blank or read "biteme".

  2. gecho

    Where I live they ditched expiration stickers 20 years ago (along with front plates). Maybe they make more sense in places with police that do foot patrols. Whenever a driver gets pulled over the officer punches the plate # into their in vehicle terminal to check registration status. And now an increasing number of police cars are equipped with plate scanners.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      ANPRS has been used for years in the UK. A police patrol car computer can constantly scan vehicle plates, query the DVLA records and alert the police in the car to any anomalies. There is also fixed surveillance recording vehicle movements. Very 1984.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        With only the occasional mowing-down of children

      2. Martin-73 Silver badge

        to be fair, that's ONE bit of 1984 i am ok with, all it's doing is checking if the person is licensed, taxed and insured.

        1. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

          -> all it's doing is checking if the person is licensed, taxed and insured

          The person? No. It checks if the car is taxed and there is insurance for it. It does not identify the driver.

          But that is not all it is doing. Movements of your vehicle are being kept for how long? It is mass surveillance.

          Hello mate (the police rarely say "sir" or "madam" or "miss" these days). Just wondering what you are doing as your car has not been around here before. Mind your effing business.

          1. d3vy

            "Movements of your vehicle are being kept for how long?"

            Thats a very good question - one I hadn't considered before, I assumed that once the check was complete that the data would be discarded but yeah there is a possibility to log the coordinates of where the car was picked up and in a way track the vehicle.

            I'd guess that they are not doing that, or at least if they are that the data isnt generally available to the whole force/easily searchable as I'd expect that we'd hear about it by now - I have many friends in the police, some specifically in traffic who drive ANPR equipped cars and no one has ever mentioned the ability to track a vehicles movements based on where its pinged ANPR (Unless they are looking for a specific vehicle as there is definitely a way to flag a reg so that when it passes an ANPR camera they get an alert).

            1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
              Devil

              Facebook stores this information in its US database for a proportionate duration (eternity minus 1s).

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              "I have many friends in the police, some specifically in traffic who drive ANPR equipped cars and no one has ever mentioned the ability to track a vehicles movements based on where its pinged ANPR"

              They do track in Los Angeles. Not every officer has the ability to pull up the information, but a cop I know had a course on it and was able to see his own car as an example. When he was out and about off work, he'd getting tagged about a dozen times each day. I'd call that very creepy. They also can ping toll transponders without generating a charge or notification for more updates. Even a mall I know has ANPR's and tracks the cars going in and out.

        2. Phil Kingston

          That's the intended use. The unintended uses are the scary bit. Makes it easy for anyone with access to that data (and there'll be lots of people that have that, authorised or not) to do bad things. Say admin dude at cop shop wants to establish movement patterns of a girl he's taken an unhealthy interest in. Or copper wants to keep tabs on his/her DV victim's movements. What if Big Brother wants to have data on the movements of "persons of interest"? All of those things happen when data like that is available. However well-intentioned gathering it may be.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            But it is not like any of the organisations with ANPR cameras have been caught failing to secure the data or failing to anonymise it as they had stated under oath in a court is it?

            Oh wait https://www.theregister.com/2020/04/28/anpr_sheffield_council/

            They had several years of data open to the internet, the same data they had stated they didn't have in a case relating to the tracking of "tree protesters" in the city in court. Still not seen anything from the ICO or the council to address the issue or apologise for leaving records of all our travel open on the internet for all to see/capture or anyone from the council held to account.

            With those cameras you can't go more than a few hundred meters from where I live without being tracked, I suspect the day I had to take the car to get some work done for the MOT and then back to the test centre for a retest would have flagged me at least four times as being on the road without an MOT even though it was perfectly allowed under the rules and it was all within about a mile of home.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            "What if Big Brother wants to have data on the movements of "persons of interest"?"

            What if a copper wants to make some extra money and prints out logs for a celebrity to sell to the tabloids?

    2. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Never understood places with no front plate requirement, how does that work visiting a place where front plates are required?

      1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

        Never understood places with no front plate requirement, …

        … how does that work visiting a place where front plates are required?

        I’d guess that the visited two-plate place would only have legislation that applied to vehicles that are registered in its own jurisdiction; thus, a visiting vehicle from a one-plate jurisdiction would not break the two-plate jurisdiction’s law.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Never understood places with no front plate requirement, …

          As a guy who imported a pickup from a one plate state into California, a two plate state, I can confirm this. The cop who pulled me over did so because he recognized me and wanted to make sure I knew that I needed to re-register the truck in California, and to make sure I put both plates on. He also allowed as to how I had a 90 day grace period to make the change.

          Last time I checked, there are 30 two plate states and 20 one plate states. Washington DC is two plates.

        2. keith_w

          Re: Never understood places with no front plate requirement, …

          I was going to say that anything that is legal in the licensing location (state, province) is ok in locations that are not the licensing locations. Then I remembered that California doesn't allow anything except transponders to be attached to windshields.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Never understood places with no front plate requirement, …

            "Then I remembered that California doesn't allow anything except transponders to be attached to windshields."

            Almost all my vehicles came from the factory with a mirror attached to the windshield.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Never understood places with no front plate requirement, …

              "Almost all my vehicles came from the factory with a mirror attached to the windshield."

              Then you are toast.

              Steve Lehto talked about a state that has a law that prohibits obscuring a license plate in any way. While you'd think they wanted to prevent people from putting on oversized frames or tinted covers, the way the law is written, it could mean the washers on the screws used to fit the plate. There is no verbiage about what's obscured or how much of the plate is covered up. A person was fighting a ticket since no information on the plate was covered, but the judge went with how the law was written. That really sucks since they had to pay the fine and additional money for taking it to court.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Never understood places with no front plate requirement, how does that work visiting a place where front plates are required?

        As I noted in another thread (after your comment was posted), it's covered by the Equal Powers clause: the (US) states are assumed to have equal powers and must respect the exercise of those powers by other states. The two-plates versus one-plate situation is no different than, say, differing requirements for obtaining a driver's license, or a marriage certificate.

        That's why eloping couples used to go to Las Vegas to get married, by the way: Nevada had few requirements and short waiting times for a marriage license, and other states had to honor Nevada marriages.

        Like any Constitutional requirement, the Equal Powers clause isn't absolute, and there's a history of jurisprudence you have to take into account. And, obviously, there have been periods when various states disagreed fairly vigorously about certain policies. So for some questions it's more complicated than others. But the front-license-plate thing is basically a non-issue.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          The current abortion issue probably being the best example of States disagreeing over laws, jurisdictions and extra-territorial enforcement.

          1. J. Cook Silver badge

            And by the time it works it's way through the justice system...

            All I can hope for is that it'll be a moot point by then, but still... let's utterly ruin people's lives for no other reason than cruelty.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              If the Republicans gain a majority in both houses then - based on many current GOP candidates' views - you can expect a federal law banning abortions as a starter to the rolling back of equality laws. They seem to take "The Handmaid's Tale" in the same gospel sense as their cherry picking of the Abrahamic religions' bible.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I thought they also have laws about crossing state lines to take advantage of differing laws - eg the age of sexual consent which apparently can vary considerably.

    3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Coat

      In some places...

      Whenever a driver gets pulled over the officer punches the plate # into their in vehicle terminal[face of the driver].

      Or gets tasered, or worse

  3. Joe W Silver badge

    "can reportedly function in extreme temperatures"

    well... so can my metal one? And I doubt the eInk display is really all that robust. And it cannot be read under wide lighting conditions. I just don't get it.

    1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: "can reportedly function in extreme temperatures"

      It does seem a lot like a solution looking for a problem...

      1. Pirate Dave Silver badge

        Re: "can reportedly function in extreme temperatures"

        Also looks like a tech company with both barrels loaded for a splashy IPO.

        Only fitting if their corporate theme song is ZZ Top's "I'm bad, I'm nationwide".

    2. David 132 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "can reportedly function in extreme temperatures"

      Your metal plate is clearly unfit for purpose and inadequate; for the very simple reason that someone can't charge you $20+ per month for it.

      You're just not thinking in a 21st-century mindset.

    3. katrinab Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: "can reportedly function in extreme temperatures"

      And so can my plastic one.

      The DVLA approved font is designed with OCR in mind. Given that the registration number isn't supposed to change, I don't understand what an electronic plate could do that would be useful.

      If you want tracking on your vehicle, get a different device for that. The cheapest option is probably to put an AirTag in it somewhere.

      1. d3vy

        Re: "can reportedly function in extreme temperatures"

        "The cheapest option is probably to put an AirTag in it somewhere"

        Wouldnt that only work if there was someone with an internet connected apple device nearby?

        1. NSOL

          Re: "can reportedly function in extreme temperatures"

          Right, that's almost impossible to find nowadays.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "can reportedly function in extreme temperatures"

        In several countries your vehicle has to be re-registered if you move to a different district. In the USA it appears to a be a move to a different state.

        In South Africa many years ago number plates were a minor industry - as the registrations were often based on towns and possibly city districts. A move of a couple of streets away could mean new number plates were needed. It was interesting that a car only needed a safety test when re-registered - whether the first time in 20 years or only a few weeks old. Getting a test was also a minor industry - but that's another story.

        In the UK - until the recent new system - you could identify where a car was first registered from its number plate letters which were allocated to counties and cities eg RE or RF = Staffordshire, then VT or EH = Stoke-on-Trent. It then retained that sequence - although plates could be officially transferred to another vehicle for vanity reasons.

  4. Ball boy

    Yet another IoT hole for no reason?

    Here we go: what's the betting someone figures out a way into these (after all, they're hardly likely to get updates that often) and we find half of the plates in CA start displaying nothing at all....or suitably rude/advertorial messages.

    Again, this is putting tech in places just for the sake of it. I can't imagine the license plate needs to change so often that having the ability to vary the display will be a major advantage - certainly not when you look at the cost of having one. Also, e-paper will have issues in the temp range / lighting conditions that a metal plate copes rather well with: this is a problem that didn't need solving, surely.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: Yet another IoT hole for no reason?

      Boy, I can hardly wait for an opportunity to blank my plate (or have it show some other number) when passing under the ever-increasingly ubiquitous toll roads' license plate readers.

      1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

        (or have it show some other number)

        Hopefully through a cunning emulation of a split-flap display, ideally using a typeface of debatable legibility.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here in France, the government picked quite a different solution: the plate doesn't change for the lifetime of the vehicle.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That is recent history. You used to have to change the registration every time the car was sold. Or if you moved to another département.

    2. UCAP Silver badge

      That's been the case in the UK (with a very few exceptional edge cases that I personally have never come across) for as long as I can remember.

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        "That's been the case in the UK (with a very few exceptional edge cases that I personally have never come across) for as long as I can remember."

        Actually since UK registration plates were invented ... personalised plates to generate income from muppets are the only exception.

        The only variation on this theme is the possible colour change of the plate in relation to historic registrations which some DVLA droid mucked up a few years ago.

        1. d3vy

          "personalised plates to generate income from muppets are the only exception"

          Not quite. The "Q" Plate exists and can be applied to existing (previously registered) vehicles under certain circumstances

          https://www.gov.uk/vehicle-registration/q-registration-numbers

          Thats one way other than a personalised reg that the reg of a car can change.

        2. ravenviz Silver badge

          “personalised plates … are the only exception”

          There are no personalised plates in the UK, only a change to a registration mark on a vehicle to a mark previously issued but no longer associated with any vehicle, due to scrappage for example, the mark effectively outliving the vehicle.

          Unless you make an illegal representation such as “T1NY P3N15”, then that’s personalised.

    3. Lars Silver badge
      Coat

      "the plate doesn't change for the lifetime of the vehicle.".

      I think that is the case in several European countries.

    4. Martin-73 Silver badge

      this is 100% normal in most of the civilized world

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Trollface

        But this article is about America. Civili[sz]ed doesn't apply.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Damn your ise!

        2. J. Cook Silver badge

          Arizona used to have that rule- the plate was tied to the vehicle. But we got to the point where there were so many vehicles in the database that it was running out of entries, so they changed it so that it's tied to the entity that's registering the vehicle.

          1. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Running out of entries -Don't understand that

            Do you mean the database could only hold a certain number of registrations within its software/storage i.e needed an upgrade.

            Or there weren't enough permutations of the numbering system i.e Needed to start a new format?

            1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
              Trollface

              Re: Running out of entries -Don't understand that

              it was an Excel 97 sheet

            2. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: Running out of entries -Don't understand that

              65535 trailers is enough for anybody

    5. johnfbw

      Some countries make you change plates when you move cities

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        I have an uncommon case: living in Potsdam with a Berlin plate on the car. I went to change it when I moved, but they decided it was near enough...

        1. Joe W Silver badge

          It is no longer required to get a new plate when moving to a different place in Germany, it used to be. The municipality (or the county) receives the vehicle tax (or used to, at least), it used to collect it as well. The license plate was how it mapped the car to the city. Now the state collects the money and distributes it (afaik to the municipalities), and there is no longer a problem to map a non-local plate to the correct city / county.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Makes sense. Our issue was that we bought a new car while in the process of moving from Berlin to Potsdam so it ended up being initially registered in Berlin then transferred to Potsdam a month later.

    6. jake Silver badge

      Comment from California

      Here in California, the plate doesn't have to change once issued, unless the vehicle owner decides otherwise. I have cars and trucks that were first registered before I was born that have their original plates on them (in some circles, this increases the value of the vehicle). Likewise, I can choose to get another plate (custom or generic) any time I like. Or, I can pay to have an extra plate in my name, and use it whenever, as long as the DMV is notified appropriately prior to use. In theory, I could have plates that differ according to season, and pay to legally swap them as I see fit. I do not know of anybody doing this.

      Most drivers in California only think about their plates once per year, when they put the new validation sticker on the back plate. These new plates only offer one real benefit to the driver ... SHINEY!

      They offer many benefits to the company making them, and the politicians getting bribes kickbacks the manufacturing facility built in their district. And to advertisers, of course ... The local news was showing the plates flipping through advertising. Joy.

      Personally, I want nothing to do with digital plates. It's only a matter of time before miscreants figure out how to fuck with them. And they will, once there are enough of them about. If they haven't already. It'll hardly be rocket surgery.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Comment from California

        Yeah, the california DMV is _special_

        It does not exist for what it appears to do. It exists to maximize revenue. Back in the day, a custom or "vanity" plate involved standing in the corner and looking through a giant book, then paying a small one off fee.

        Sneaky goblins switched that one time fee to an annual fee, making it effectively a license plate subscription. So this comes as little surprise. They are as as corrupt as they are incompetent, and they love signing contracts with outside companies who take a cut of the fees they collect.

        So a thousand dollar e-plate subscription, where the maker can take a cut of your registration if you pay through their app, no real surprise there. Just don't expect it to work, or expect the fines to be waived if you get a ticket for malfunctioning plate, or tech support if it does go bad.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Comment from California

        "The local news was showing the plates flipping through advertising. Joy."

        Hit and run:

        Police office to witness: Can you identify the vehicle sir?

        Witness: I was a red tesla.

        Police Officer: Did you see the number plate? Can you remember the registration?

        Witness: Yeah, it was an advert for Dunkin Donust.

        Police Officer: D'oh! Mmmmmm....doughnuts[*}

        *He's an ex-pat Brit :-)

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Comment from California

        "Personally, I want nothing to do with digital plates. It's only a matter of time before miscreants figure out how to fuck with them. "

        Which leads to being pulled over depending on what was done, wasting your time. It also means that once the information on how to hack the plates is posted, the kiddies will all be out with their parent provided phones messing with license plates until such time as all of them can be replaced, which will waste even more of your time and postage. New plates go out in the mail and some of them will be procured for research purposes and in short order somebody will have a hack for the new plates.

    7. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "Here in France, the government picked quite a different solution: the plate doesn't change for the lifetime of the vehicle."

      A large number of US states are larger than France. The division of government in the US also makes a national license plate problematic. They'd also need to be about as many digits as an IP address.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Yes, but a numbering system that included state of registration is surely trivial 12345NY67 Being different to 12345FL67.

      2. ravenviz Silver badge

        They should just use GUIDs and have done with it!

  6. bronskimac

    Why?

    I understand some states require you to renew your plates at intervals, but it's hardly a daily hassle. Handy if you want to display a false number, I guess.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Why?

      It's the modern implementation of the James Bond rotating-numberplate thing that every single driver everywhere has, at some point, fantasized about having.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        Re: Why?

        Would be handy for those annoying car parks with ANPR enforced nazism

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Why?

          I can see a kid hiding a small transmitter to change all the plates passing by to read "I AM BRIAN!".

          Or "DRINK REAL ALE!" ... One wonders if the display is scrollable. What OS do they use?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why?

            I'd make it look like it did a factory reset. Always good to have some plausible deniability.

            It would be interesting to hack this and make it show another number when near a speed camera - at present speed cameras and ANPRs are not really analysing for registration discrepancies. Also a good fix for average speed measuring although it would get quite a workout in the UK - when I was driving near London it felt like they have one every 500 yards. It appears that camera suppliers have had quite a successful decade..

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Why?

              "I'd make it look like it did a factory reset. Always good to have some plausible deniability."

              For your own vehicle, of course. But that nasty neighbor?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Why?

                I'd give him automatically the license of any police car driving past :).

            2. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: Why?

              To be fair, speeding isn't my issue here, in that case, the idiot deserves the fine, the issue is the UK habit of having ANPR on private car parks with obfuscated rules, combined with the DVLA handing out details to any scammer who asks

          2. Cuddles Silver badge

            Re: Why?

            "One wonders if the display is scrollable. What OS do they use?"

            If it doesn't support marquee and blink tags, what's the point?

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Why?

            "What OS do they use?"

            Windows CE.

        2. Allan George Dyer
          Devil

          Re: Why?

          @Martin-73 - "Would be handy for those annoying car parks with ANPR enforced nazism"

          Are you thinking of a walk-through hack, changing the number on every parked car, so the parking company has to deal with all the drivers unable to leave?

          1. Flightmode
            Devil

            Re: Why?

            Ooh, or how about simply swapping the plates of cars that are in the car park so that all cars get to leave, but none of them get charged the right amount?

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: Why?

              I like the way you people think, hence me sticking around despite this huge spelling debacle

        3. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Why?

          with a "drop table" plate?

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      some states require you to renew your plates at intervals, but it's hardly a daily hassle

      Yeah. It's not really even an annual hassle, at least in the states I've lived in. In Michigan I could get new stickers any time from about a month before the old ones expired, from an automated kiosk that was open 24/7. In New Mexico they send me a reminder by mail, I pay online, I get the new stickers by mail. Even as far back as the '80s I was renewing by mail in other states, if memory serves.

      1. J. Cook Silver badge
        Go

        Re: Why?

        The only time I have to visit a motor vehicle office in Arizona is if they require an emissions test on the vehicle, which IIRC is every other year. Otherwise, pay online, receive new sitckers in a week or two.

  7. DrSunshine0104

    This sounds like a bad idea. How do you keep a person from changing the number on their e-ink plate? The device is in complete control of the end user, even if they use some kind of key to verify operations, this is ripe for exploitation. E-ink doesn't need constant voltage and as far as I know doesn't provide feedback of what is displayed. Just disconnect the screen, 'flash' the display to a fake reg number. Even if there is cryptographic information on the plate, you might be able to selectively flash the screen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Correct but irrelevant

      The DMV isn't trying to correct a problem, they just want more money. They won't care about fake plates unless a high profile case make the news. Then they will probably dole out a grant to the company to cover the fix.

      Yes, this is probably going to be easier to hack then it is to stamp a convincing metal plate. Also going to be a magnet for theft and vandalism I suspect. DMV only cares about taking as much of your money as possible and giving it to other people.

      So for them it makes perfect sense.

      1. Flightmode

        Re: Correct but irrelevant

        The question is how easy it would be to build your own, convincing-enough e-ink plate and use instead? What kinds of security features would they have? I'm guessing some kind of control value or bar/QR code that can be read from a reasonable distance to verify that the plate is valid? Other physical security measures, perhaps?

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Correct but irrelevant

          On the other hand, I see a lot of people driving around (in states which don't have annual inspections) with license plate covers that make the plate nearly impossible to read. I don't know why they aren't stopped by every cop who comes across them – maybe it's not enough for probable cause? – but apparently they get away with it.

          I've also seen hand-painted fake plates more than once, and plenty of vehicles with no plates. Again, you'd think that sort of thing wouldn't fly for long, yet there they are.

          So it's not like the propensity for these eInk plates to fail open really changes the situation that much. It's just a dumb idea.

        2. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

          Re: Correct but irrelevant

          To get a convincing plate number, just look for a car from the same brand and model and the same color, then note the number...

          Easy as an American pie!

    2. d3vy

      "How do you keep a person from changing the number on their e-ink plate?"

      How do you stop someone replacing their Metal/Plastic plate currently?

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Well in the UK there are strict requirements for the plates. And restrictions on who can supply them. But I guess in the USA they do things differently.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        "How do you stop someone replacing their Metal/Plastic plate currently?"

        An embossed metal plate with reflective paint is a PIA to replicate. Not impossible, but not nearly as convenient as changing an ePlate to go through a toll booth and then changing it back after to be all nice and legal again.

  8. IGotOut Silver badge

    Ok being a Brit....

    the question is WHY?

    Seriously, I know you guys still use measurements from the "dark ages", but why have such a antiquated method of whatever they do.

    Heck, even us "behind the times" Brits dumped tax discs several years ago, MOTs have been digital for ages and insurace checking is at most just a click or call away or fully automated for much of the police (ANPR).

    1. Giles C Silver badge

      Re: Ok being a Brit....

      Also the line at the end of the article.

      It does make an exception for personal cars, though: those can be tracked by employers, but only during business hours and only "if strictly necessary for the performance of the employee's duties."

      Why does an employer have any need to track your personal car. Sorry dumb plates are a better idea (this coming from a Brit).

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Ok being a Brit....

        "Why does an employer have any need to track your personal car."

        That would answered by the last line of the article :-)

        "if strictly necessary for the performance of the employee's duties."

        eg people who drive as part of their job and use their own personal car on mileage allowance or car allowance instead of a company owned vehicle.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Ok being a Brit....

          "eg people who drive as part of their job and use their own personal car on mileage allowance or car allowance instead of a company owned vehicle."

          If a company isn't going to trust their employees to properly report mileage, it's easy enough to spot check from time to time.

    2. DrSunshine0104

      Re: Ok being a Brit....

      You see, changing our units of measure to the (far superior) Metric system doesn't make money. It would cost us money, so we'll be stuck with a weird archaic system that has little logical reasoning... forever. But make a registration plate that is mostly a novelty because it uses technology, a person can make a buck off that.

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Ok being a Brit....

      The so-called "license plates" exist purely as a revenue generator. The cops don't pay much attention to them, except as a first-glance approximation. What they go by is the vehicle ID number, or VIN.

      Our measurement system works fine, for the most part. That's why you lot still use it, too. For example, how many miles would you drive to get that perfect pint, instead of jogging to shed the couple stone you picked up in these sedentary Covid Times?

      1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

        That’s why you lot still use it, too.

        For example, how many miles would you drive to get that perfect pint, instead of jogging to shed the couple stone you picked up in these sedentary Covid Times?

        To be fair, the 19th century Imperial pint is different from our 18th century royal US customary liquid pint.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: That’s why you lot still use it, too.

          Yes, I'm aware of that.

          HOWEVER, I can show you any number of bars here in California who will sell you a 20oz pint.

          And of course most microbreweries sell their beer in 22oz bottles.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: That’s why you lot still use it, too.

            "And of course most microbreweries sell their beer in 22oz bottles."

            Not a really good stout. They sell you a 14oz "pint".

      2. Blergh

        Re: Ok being a Brit....

        "That's why you lot still use it, too" - only when we have to.

        "how many miles would you drive to get that perfect pint, instead of jogging to shed the couple stone you picked up in these sedentary Covid Times?" - If I keep up doing my 10km jog then I might still lose that extra couple Kg that I picked up in recent times, and then I won't feel guilty when I drink my 330ml can of beer.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Ok being a Brit....

          Canned beer?

          Name checks out ...

        2. Totally not a Cylon Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Ok being a Brit....

          Excuse me but we Brits still use an Imperial Ton of 'old' measurements....

          ALL building materials are in Imperial sizes; just quoted as 'metric equivalents.

          a sheet of plywood is 4ft x 8ft, a fence panel is always 6ft wide and 3,4,5 or 6ft in height

          the length of timber employed by your BOFH will be a 2x4 or 2x6 or 4x4 post if their feeling nasty.

          Copper plumbing is 0.5inch & 0.75inch; marked as 15mm & 22mm....

          All road signs are in miles and those boards on motorways are in yards (was talking to one of the guys who install them, at 100yard intervals)

          A jar of jam is marked 454g, strange it weighs 1lb.....

          yeah we 'went metric' in a uniquely British manner, at least we drive on the 'Correct Side' unlike you followers of Napoleon......

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Ok being a Brit....

            Here in the USofA, 2x4s are uniformly 1.5x3.5 inches, 2x6s are 1.5x5.5 inches, 4x4s are 3.5x3.5 inches, etc. The quarter inch per side is removed when the lumber is trued up and smoothed out for sale. You can also get rough-cut fully dimensional lumber, should you need it. I used some when rebuilding this place ... it was easier than adapting modern building materials when replacing rotted out door and window framing.

            The urban myth that Napoleon had anything to do with RHT vs LHT is just that, a myth.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Ok being a Brit....

              "The urban myth that Napoleon had anything to do with RHT vs LHT is just that, a myth."

              True, but the "cheese eating surrender monkeys" did help to bankroll the 1776 insurrection so you should still be grateful to them :-p

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: Ok being a Brit....

                WTF does that have to do with anything mentioned here?

                But as long as you brought it up, I'm fairly certain we repaid that debt in WWI ... and again in WWII.

                In tribute, we borrowed their bugs to make some of the best cheese in the world.

                Just don't mention the Judgement of Paris ...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ok being a Brit....

            "a sheet of plywood is 4ft x 8ft"

            Building my 8'x4' model railway table - I bought plywood and lengths of planed timber 35x63mm from Wickes (UK).

            Puzzlement when the plywood was significantly longer than the timber. Then the penny dropped - the labels showed that the plywood was 2.44m (8 feet) and the timber 2.40m.

            Fortunately I was able to butt the corner joints such that the 35mm thickness of a 4 feet timber cross member was added to the length of a long member to get close enough to the size of the plywood. ("L" shaped corner butts with staggered overlaps at alternate ends)

            A google showed that there are indeed two different UK timber industry standard measurements that equate to a nominal 8 feet. Which is used seems to apply to specific types of material.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Ok being a Brit....

              Erratum: 38x63 - hence why 2400+38 made the timber frame length near enough to the ply sheet 2440mm.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ok being a Brit....

            "0.5inch & 0.75inch; marked as 15mm & 22mm "

            Doing some re-plumbing in my house in 1990 - I discovered that the house's 1970s imperial materials did not always want to mate with the equivalent modern metric ones.

      3. Chloe Cresswell

        Re: Ok being a Brit....

        "That's why you lot still use it too" No we don't, we use Imperial, you use US Customary. Try pouring that "perfect pint" (imperial/20floz) into a US (16floz) sized container...

  9. Old Used Programmer

    Just what we need....

    A license plate you *rent*? No thanks.

    1. Solviva Bronze badge

      Re: Just what we need....

      For just $20 a month, we'll ensure your plate remains visible.

      Isn't that how a protection racket works?

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Just what we need....

      "A license plate you *rent*? No thanks."

      All plates that pay a yearly license fee are rented.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not in CA.

        Standard plate stays with the car/trailer/whatever for its life on the roads. An owner can switch off of the additional annual fee for a so called "vanity plate" by trading it in for a random plate issued by DMV, otherwise it's just the registration tags that renew.

        So for most CA plates, the plate itself is basically part of the car once it's installed.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Not in CA.

          "Standard plate stays with the car/trailer/whatever for its life on the roads."

          And the odds are, that plate will last the full life of the car, probably even outlive it. I wonder how long these e-ink plates will last? Thousands of tiny electromechanical "pixels", the associated electronics, all those tiny solder joints, out in all weathers and temperatures and built to maximise profits, no doubt with components from the cheapest suppliers and eventually outsourced to the cheapest manufacturer, probably in China where most of the manufactures of e-paper displays are

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Not in CA.

            "I wonder how long these e-ink plates will last?"

            My gaster will be well and truly flabbered if they last the four years mentioned in TFA. And I'll be absolutely shocked if the company in question lasts that long.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Not in CA.

              "And I'll be absolutely shocked if the company in question lasts that long."

              Which is were the people paying for a year or more at a time will get burned to a cinder. If theirs goes rotten, they'll have to either pay somebody else for a new one or go back to plain old standard plates again. I finally chucked my vanity plates. I inherited them on a handed down car and kept them as they were a cop code for "coffee break". I can't count how many times they saved me from getting a ticket. No, honestly, I can't. I wasn't pulled over and spoken to, but I'll guess it may have been once or twice given a couple of waves I got. I used to keep my hair much shorter so I looked the part.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Just what we need....

        I think the USA must tax vehicles by putting a sticker on the plate. Is that really taxing the plate though. In the UK we used to have a tax disc on the front windscreen.. But we weren't taxing the glass- it simply showed the car was taxed.

  10. Ideasource

    Renting a 5 dollar kipiece of kit

    For 20 bucks a month...

    As as long as whoever is renting this is refered to repeat 3rd grade, then maybe it would work as a stupidity detector and we could get those people the help they need.

  11. jvf

    More tracking-yay!

    I'm out.

  12. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    I'm looking forward to e-ink numberplates which can change what they display when around speed cameras. BMT216A to 4711-EA-62 to LU6789 in a fraction of a second.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      or "; DROP TABLE offenders;--," ?

      1. David 132 Silver badge
    2. Chloe Cresswell

      I'm sure the late Mr Llewelyn would approve of those plates

  13. MiguelC Silver badge
    Big Brother

    On top of everything else, that last paragraph...

    Quote: It does make an exception for personal cars, though: those can be tracked by employers, but only during business hours and only "if strictly necessary for the performance of the employee's duties."

    So, *not* personal?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: On top of everything else, that last paragraph...

      That language is included for people who use their personal cars on company time. It's to ensure the employee is not ripping off the employer on mileage and/or time.

      Personally, as an employer, I either trust my employees or I fire them. On the rare occasion that the Government requires an exact accounting, they use a company vehicle. Easier that way.

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        Re: On top of everything else, that last paragraph...

        What a stupid excuse...

        I totally agree with your sentiment - from an employee view. Either you trust me or I have no business working for you (and I will leave, no need to fire me). Letting me use a company vehicle is the least hassle for all of us (including the taxman).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Let us not forget our friends in the gig economy

      Where they assume all risks and pay all liabilities. Why should their empl--- I mean "contract issuer" lose out on the valuable ability to track their every movement just because the vehicle is registered to the employee, er "independent contractor who is solely employed by one company, on a full time basis"?

      If I were one of them, I'd take it personally...

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Let us not forget our friends in the gig economy

        Those people are already tracked. The app on the phone that dispatches the tasks[*] will already be tracking their every move.

        [*] not jobs. That might imply they are employees. They are piece-workers. "Gig economy" is just a new "cool" name for something most people thought was abolished years ago because of the shit pay level equivalent it gives.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Let us not forget our friends in the gig economy

          "Those people are already tracked. The app on the phone that dispatches the tasks[*] will already be tracking their every move.

          "[*] not jobs. That might imply they are employees. They are piece-workers. "Gig economy" is just a new "cool" name for something most people thought was abolished years ago because of the shit pay level equivalent it gives."

          I can still make plenty of money as a gig worker doing the very thing that gives the concept the name ... playing gigs. My Bass guitar helped put me through Uni, I'm absolutely certain it still could if needs be. I've also done gig work as a lumber jack, a commercial fisherman, a bicycle mechanic, and (when back in grade school) pushing a lawn mower door to door. None of these require a cell phone, much less an app.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Let us not forget our friends in the gig economy

            Wow, Jake! You also played the bass as a semi-pro?

            Is there anything you can't do? We need a superman icon just for you

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next stop: EBay

    I'm looking forward to grabbing one of these for a pittance on EBay when the business goes titsup. Quite a nice piece of hacking real estate.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Next stop: EBay

      Fondle slabs are a dime a dozen on flea bay. I suspect these things will be delegated to the dustbin of history.

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: Next stop: EBay

        There are use cases for E-Ink screens that large; things like a weekly/monthly calendar display that changes once a week/month.

        I have a cute little E-ink display I bought from Adafruit, and it can be programmed for a variety of things, like a clean/dirty indicator for the dishwasher (via a position sensor built into the board the display's mounted on), or a weather conditions display that updates once a day.

  15. Solviva Bronze badge

    I think the UK is an exception in Europe (may be wrong) whereby trailers must display the reg of the towing vehicle - most/rest of Europe trailers have their own reg. Potentially something like this could work for UK trailer rentals, but at $20/month I think not!

    1. Martin-73 Silver badge

      yes, always seemed odd to me as a brit, having trailers with a separate license plate number, it's not a vehicle, it's part of the towing unit

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        It's not married to the towing unit, trailers can be quite promiscuous and swap towing partners freely.

        Not everyone has access to the UK technology of "a bit of cardboard with the tow vehicles number in marker pen"

        1. Martin-73 Silver badge

          or a normal license plate with a means to attach to the trailer, but i see where you're coming from and some of them could do with a marker pen in their Christmas stocking

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. H in The Hague

      "I think the UK is an exception in Europe (may be wrong) whereby trailers must display the reg of the towing vehicle - most/rest of Europe trailers have their own reg."

      In NL (and possibly the rest of the EU) smaller trailers carry the same registration plate as the towing vehicle. Heavier ones are considered as vehicles in their own right, with their own registration plate.

      1. Joe W Silver badge

        and their own insurance...

      2. Martin-73 Silver badge

        interesting, thank you for the insight :)

      3. Solviva Bronze badge

        That's why my "may be wrong" clause was there :)

        Sweden has plates and inspections for the smallest of trailers. From one end of the spectrum to the other!

  16. brainwrong

    Bond gadget

    Is this the modern equivalent of the revolving license plates on Bond cars of old?

    Does anyone make an e-ink vinyl wrap for full getaway-car stealth?

    I literally have no understanding of what the fuck this is for. you yanks are proper crazy.

    1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      I literally have no understanding of what the fuck this is for.

      The Rplate’s purpose is to improve the bottom line of Reviver, of course.

      you yanks are proper crazy.

      As providers of IoT solutions in search of problems, crazy like a fox.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I literally have no understanding of what the fuck this is for.

        Kickbacks paid to the DMV and probably the governor as well as a "signing bonus".

        Coming to a state near you in a couple of years, probably without an opt-out.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Bond gadget

      Hey, we're not all the California legislature and Governor Newsom.

      (I'm really dreading the latter finally making good on his threat to run for President. Like we don't have enough crap in the candidate pool already...)

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Bond gadget

        "making good on his threat to run for President."

        Newsom has not threatened to run for President. In fact, quite the opposite. He has been very vocal about not wanting the job. Frankly, I think he's just barely smart enough to realize he's reached his own level of incompetence and will milk that until it's empty, and then try for Feinstein's place in the Senate.

  17. Jan 0 Silver badge

    It's not very digital!

    All it adds is rental. Whyi isn't it a wireless transponder that suitably equipped roadside and vehicle mounted units can use to identify vehicles without needing ideal viewing conditions?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not very digital!

      Please don't give them more ideas!

  18. Martin-73 Silver badge

    Can someone explain to me what these are for? it sounds very james bond...

    I can't personally see a use case (from a UK perspective). Is it to stop them having to have prisoners stamp out license plates?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Can someone explain to me what these are for? it sounds very james bond...

      Presumably these can be manufactured by Chinese prisoners at lower cost

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Wow, dark thought

        But literally the only upside I can see to this is that it would be hard to build using unpaid prison labor(*see slave labor:other forms).

        Last I checked CA's metal plates were still being stamped by people incarcerated in the state prison system. I think my parents found a note along with one of their plates when I was a kid. Not that being made by Chinese kids would be less morally reprehensible in any meaningful way.

        1. Lars Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Wow, dark thought

          Plates made in prisons is rather common around the world I think.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can someone explain to me what these are for? it sounds very james bond...

        Presumably these can be manufactured _from_ Chinese prisoners at lower cost

    2. Phil Kingston

      Re: Can someone explain to me what these are for? it sounds very james bond...

      It's very much a solution looking for a problem.

      In Western Australia we also used to have to put a yearly sticker on the rego plate. We solved the problems around that by just not doing it anymore. Didn't need some way over-engineered gimmicky way of doing it.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Can someone explain to me what these are for? it sounds very james bond...

        "In Western Australia we also used to have to put a yearly sticker on the rego plate. We solved the problems around that by just not doing it anymore. Didn't need some way over-engineered gimmicky way of doing it."

        I was just listening to the last collection of words from the Prophet Adams (Douglas) in the Salmon of Doubt where he was talking about new technology where something is left out rather than added. This is another place where the silly little high-tech stickers can be done away with. Number plate readers and cops punching the numbers into their computers along with asking for your papers if pulled over obviates the need for them. The stickers are the cheapest part. It's the meetings about what the new color will be in two years, all of the required bidding for the print work, distributing the stickers to each DMV office and keeping track of the serial numbers and on and on. I expect that California will save tens of millions of dollars if they were to get rid of them.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Can someone explain to me what these are for? it sounds very james bond...

          UK got rid of tax discs from front of car years ago. It's easy to tell whether a car is taxed and insured from the reg number. There are free (freemium) phone apps that anyone can use that do it.

    3. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Can someone explain to me what these are for? it sounds very james bond...

      Advertising.

  19. PerlyKing
    Childcatcher

    Won't somebody please think of the cons?

    The "company" that has a monopoly on the metal licence plates must be gutted.

  20. DS999 Silver badge

    I don't get it

    What's the advantage? Not having to put a sticker on your plate every year? Is that such a task for operators of commercial fleets that they'd rather rent a plate for an extra $20/month? How does the plate get the information that it has been updated, does that happen automatically via 5G or something, or does it require a manual process no less labor intensive than applying a sticker?

    Since there is only one supplier of this technology, it sounds like the standard political grift we see everywhere. Just like DeSantis got a big contribution from the guy who operated his massively overpriced kidnapping of asylum seekers from Texas to Martha's Vineyard, no doubt Newsome has received or will receive a huge contribution from the guy who owns this company. $240 per year times the millions of fleet vehicles in California adds up to a big chunk of change towards a future presidential campaign.

    1. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: I don't get it

      Also, proper fleet companies (at least in arizona) have a special sticker that's applied when the plate is first issued, which gets around the whole 'need to put a yearly sticker on it' problem...

  21. Kev99 Silver badge

    Oh boy. Now instead of swiping a set of plates for the car you just jacked, you can just hack into the plates already on the car. I wonder how much the provider had to give to the legislators.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'd LOVE to hear the answer to THAT question.

      And I suspect in the fullness of time that story will come to light, to the embarrassment of those that managed to line their pockets before the spotlight caught up with them.

  22. Tubz Bronze badge
    Thumb Up

    Great idea, tech can be made so small, cyclist can no longer use size as a counter argument against plates and proof of insurance for when they break the laws, that most of them think do not apply to them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Where I live, the average motorist is no better than the average cyclist. Since Covid, we get a lot more people jumping red lights, and we seem to have a spate of idiots doing three point turns on busy roads and forcing other road users to brake to avoid them. For no apparent reason, we actually seem to have had a decline in the number of inconsiderate cyclists....

    2. ICL1900-G3 Bronze badge

      Just musing... I wonder how many serious accidents are caused by cars compared to those caused by bicycles.

    3. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      tech can be made so small,

      cyclist can no longer use size as a counter argument against plates and proof of insurance for when they break the laws,

      Bicycle plates could be found in many jurisdictions in the middle third of the last century (and may still be required to this day in Shanghai); as with motorcycles, plates for bicycles were made in sizes that were appropriate for the vehicle.

      If you read German, you might find the Wikipedia article on the Velovignette of Switzerland and Liechtenstein to be of interest; they’d used plates or stickers on bicycles which represented liability insurance coverage against bad actions by cyclists. The Velovignette system ended in 2011.

      I’d guess that the global phaseouts of bicycle plates and/or cyclist-specific liability insurance were mainly due to the results of cost/benefit analyses.

  23. Allan George Dyer
    Black Helicopters

    Very old idea

    see this documentary.

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