California testing digital license plates that cost more than your first car

Reviver Rplate

The technology that powers Amazon’s Kindle is coming to your bumper — at least if you live in California and are willing to pay a not-insignificant amount of money for it. The Golden State launched a pilot program in its capital of Sacramento to test a digital license plate that ambitiously promises to streamline the lives of motorists, help businesses reach more clients, and possibly keep fellow drivers entertained.

The device looks like a large, license plate-sized tablet. It is, in a way, except it’s not touch-sensitive. It’s equipped with its own battery and computer chip, and it looks just like a standard-issue California plate in its most basic configuration. The vehicle’s registration number appears front and center, along with information about when the car’s registration expires, California’s script logo, and a link to the DMV’s website. Users can change the color of the font or the background and display short messages directly below the registration number. If the car is parked, they can also move the registration number to a corner and display a much larger message, like an advertisement.

The Sacramento Bee reports digital license plates could let motorists renew their registration without having to place a sticker on their car’s rear license plate. Police officials can also use the license plate to track a stolen car, though this becomes a moot point if the thief removes the plate and tosses it in a ditch.

As you’d expect, the technology isn’t cheap. Reviver Auto, the California-based company that designed and manufactures the plates, charges $699 for the device. That figure doesn’t include the cost of installation and the $7 monthly fee users need to pay. Motorists must purchase the plates from authorized dealerships; they’re not available through the DMV like standard-issue license plates.

To date, 11 new car dealerships have signed up to sell the digital license plate. One is in Sacramento, three are in the San Francisco area, and the rest are located in or near Los Angeles. Arizona will soon approve use of the plates as part of a pilot program. There’s no word yet on when (or if) other states will allow the technology on their roads.

Reviver Auto founder Neville Boston acknowledges the technology is expensive, but he argues it’s an investment that makes sense for certain users. Speaking to the Sacramento Bee, he explained that companies and local governments will look into the technology to manage their fleet of vehicles. It could also attract businesses who want to use the plate as their own mini billboard. And Sacramento officials purchased 24 digital license plates as part of a pilot program designed to prepare for real-world testing of autonomous cars.

“The city envisions using this technology as a way to help the deployment of autonomous cars. If we can actually have a platform for us to see where the cars are operating, how they’re operating, and get reports back about vehicle miles traveled and locations, and we can actually geo-fence certain areas and restrict them to certain areas of the city; that’s how we envision using this plate,” explained Louis Stewart, the city’s chief innovation officer.

On the other side of the globe, Dubai launched a similar pilot program in a bid to make life easier for drivers.


Uber is about to restart self-driving car tests but on a reduced scale

Uber is reported to be on the verge of restarting its autonomous-car test program. The company halted it in March 2018 following a fatal accident involving one of its vehicles, but its cars could be back on the road within weeks.

Did that car just wink at you? Daimler previews car-to-pedestrian signals

Eager to show off progress with autonomous cars and perhaps do some consumer softening as well, Daimler and Bosch previewed car-to-pedestrian communications. A sensor-loaded Mercedes S appears to wink to acknowledge a pedestrian's presence.
Emerging Tech

How to register your drone with the FAA

Before you take to the skies with your new drone, you need to make sure it has been properly registered with the U.S. government. Check our guide for registration requirements and easy, step-by-step instructions on how to complete your…
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: A runaway Tesla, new Airpods, and Hyperloop updates

On episode 28 of Digital Trends Live, host Greg Nibler and guest Adrien Warner explored the biggest tech news of the day, including rumors of new Airpods, a police chase involving a Tesla, and more.

Bosch is developing a Rosetta Stone for autonomous and connected cars

Bosch and start-up Veniam want to create a common language that autonomous and connected cars can use. The two firms have developed a connectivity unit that transcends the national boundaries of technology.

Aston Martin bets classic car owners will choose volts over carburetors

Aston Martin has converted one of its most sought-after classic models to run on electricity instead of gasoline. The roadster uses electric components sourced from the upcoming Rapide E sedan.
Product Review

Audi built an electric SUV for buyers who want gasoline-free to mean stress-free

We finally got to spend time behind the wheel of the electric 2019 Audi E-Tron bustling cities and arid desert of the United Arab Emirates to see how it compares with Jaguar and Tesla's competitors.

Volkswagen may be planning a tougher challenge for its all-electric I.D. R

The Volkswagen I.D. R electric race car may head to the Nürburgring in 2019 for a lap-record attempt, according to a new report. Volkswagen will reportedly aim to set the quickest lap time ever by an electric car.

600-hp, $155K Polestar 1 is the alluring Volvo coupe you’ve been waiting for

Volvo's return to the coupe segment just took an interesting turn: the model will join the Polestar lineup, and it will get a 600-hp plug-in hybrid powertrain. The Polestar 1 will be built in China starting in 2019.

The Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake is the sexiest wagon ever

Aston Martin has revealed new photos of the limited-production Vanquish Zagato Shooting Brake. The Vanquish Zagato line now includes the Shooting Brake, Coupe, Volante, and Speedster, each with bespoke styling.

Nissan and Italdesign’s GT-R50 concept will become a $1.1 million reality

The Nissan GT-R50 is a customized sports car built to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of both the GT-R and design firm Italdesign. Underneath the sleek bodywork sits a 710-horsepower engine fortified with race car components.

Ford’s new Shelby GT500 Mustang will have 3D-printed brake parts

Ford's new $45 million Advanced Manufacturing Center will focus on emerging technologies, including 3D printing. One of the staff's first jobs is to print parts for the 700-horsepower Shelby GT500 Mustang.

Car-branded phones need to make a U-turn if they ever want to impress

Your car and your smartphone are becoming one, yet smartphones branded or co-created by car companies are a problem. We look at the history, some examples of the best and worst, then share hopes for the future.

World’s fastest electric race car to display at Petersen Museum

The Volkswagen I.D. R Pikes Peak race car smashed the all-time record at the hill climb for which it was named. The all-electric VW record-holder will be on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles until February 1, 2019.