The Danger of Digital License Plates

Soon, your car will not only track you in real time and make sure you’re paid-up on your insurance and have all your “papers” in order, it will also try to sell you something.

Digital license plates, approved for use in California, Arizona and most recently, Michigan, will replace the old metal plate that you controlled with an LCD screen connected to a computer that’s connected (via Wi-Fi) to you-know-who.

And controlled by you-know-who.

The screen can be configured to show more than just your number.

It can also show “targeted messaging” or advertising, in straightforward English. You’ll be advertising as you drive. You become a free billboard as well as a leashed serf, always under the watchful eye of the government and corporations that “partner” together to mulct you and keep track of you.

Let the driver behind you know all about the latest deals on Amazon!

Your payoff? A “DMV approved” banner selected by you from a menu of politically correct messages.

Like every other digital shackle, the digital plate is marketed—cue the usual insipid strumming guitar background Muzak as a great convenience.


Convenience—you’ll never have to deal with renewing your registration in person or via the mail again! Because the connected plate is connected to your bank account and the DMV will automatically extract whatever it says you owe them and not just for registration likely—for that reason the practice is likely.

For example, fines, including those for not wearing your seat belt. Keep in mind the car of the future will know if you’ve “buckled up” for safety. What else will it know?

Whatever the car tells it—such as how fast you’re driving (and braking, too). How many miles you’ve driven and when and where. Watch the video; listen to the insipid guitar strumming as the progression of dot-dot-dots (that’s you) crosses over the bridge into town.

Your insurance company will know all of that, too—it being already connected to the DMV, soon to be connected to your car via the plate it wears, just the same as the electronic ear tags that cattle wear.

And if you don’t pay or can’t pay what they say you “owe”?

Off goes the plate. And off goes the alarm.

The plate numerals that illuminate can be un-illuminated, leaving a blank plate – or perhaps a new “message,” this time about your instant outlaw status. In conjunction, the Authorities, which includes the insurance companies, are alerted to your status.

Even more is possible, which the manufacturer, Reviver Auto, hints at under the “future features” heading.

For instance, the car could simply be disabled whenever the government or the corporations connected to it (insurance companies, banks) send the signal.

Meanwhile, in addition to making payments on your car, your car will be making payments off of you via those “targeted messages” and via the data about you that’s constantly mined from the moment you close the door to the moment you open it again.

This isn’t the future, either.

It’s already here inside many new cars, which collect data about your activities and preferences (e.g., where you stopped for gas after using the touchscreen to find the nearest station with the lowest price) and even your musical preferences, based on which channel you selected and how long you listened.

The kicker is you don’t get a kickback or even a choice. The data is mined as part of the User Licensing Agreement (ULA) you “agreed” to by purchasing the vehicle, which remains the functional property of the manufacturer, even though you’re paying for it. You are licensing the use of it or at least, of the software within it. Which is what controls it.

Which means, you don’t control it.

That’s how they transform a consumer into a product, which they profit from.

The digital plate will close the circle because it will negate the end-run of not buying a new vehicle that comes with a ULA. Or a touchscreen.

While they might not know which radio station you prefer, they will know where you are, and will have the power via the tech to turn off the plate and send out the alarm just the same as if you were driving a brand-new big brother mobile.

Best of all, it costs hundreds of dollars rather than the $50 or so you used to pay for a metal plate. Not counting what they make off selling you.

It’s only in CA, next-door AZ and Michigan for now. But don’t worry, if you don’t live in those states. It’s likely only a matter of time before it’s all states and not so much because of the government or the corporations, but because of the willing complicity of the people who buy in.

As with smartphones…As with Facebook and Twitter—Self-enserfment for the sake of convenience, for the sake of a “cool” new piece of tech. Which would be ok if the rest of us weren’t also enserfed thereby.

But a rip tide carries everything along, whether you want to swim that way or not.

Eric Peters lives in Virginia and enjoys driving cars and motorcycles. In the past, Eric worked as a car journalist for many prominent mainstream media outlets. Currently, he focuses his time writing auto history books, reviewing cars, and blogging about cars+ for his website

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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2 Responses to “The Danger of Digital License Plates”

  1. David Holzman says:

    The whole concept is insidious. Just broadcasting “messages” on the plates is stupid–yet another driver distraction.