Digital license plates have become legal for all cars in California, after a trial with a select number of drivers that’s lasted almost four years, according to a new report from the Los Angeles Times. Why would anyone want a digital license plate? Users can change the messaging at the bottom of their plates through a phone app, and even give safety notices and alerts, such as marking the car as stolen.
There’s currently just one company, a firm called Reviver, authorized to offer digital license plates to California drivers. The license plates come in two models: battery-powered or hard-wired. The battery-powered option comes with a five-year or 50,000-mile battery life, according to Reviver.
Aside from the app’s personalization and safety notice features, there’s also automatic registration and renewal features with the DMV, location services, and trip monitoring features, according to Reviver, though Gizmodo has yet to try out the app for itself.
If a digital license plate sounds like something you want to invest in, there are some recurring costs. The digital plates originally cost $700 with a monthly fee of $7 during the trial period. But now the entire cost is tied up in a minimum 2-year subscription, which can be paid $20 per month for two years or $215 per year for four years if you want the battery-powered option. The hard-wired version is even more expensive, at $25 per month for two years or $275 per year for four years, and is currently only available to commercial businesses.
And while self-installation is an option, you can also get the battery-powered plate professionally installed for $99 or the hard-wired plate installed for $150. A YouTube video uploaded by the company says they can be installed in just five minutes.
“The metal license plate is a 19th century feature of 21st century life,” Neville Boston, a co-founder of Reviver, says on the company’s website.
“The ability of our platform to deliver greater utility, convenience and innovation to everyone across the ecosystem of vehicle ownership is unprecedented. Over time, the data and patterns generated through our unique platform has the opportunity to help evolve our transportation infrastructure and be an important tool to make travel safer, smarter, and more efficient,” Boston continued.
Just two other states currently allow digital license plates for personal vehicles, including Arizona and Michigan, but Texas does allow digital plates for commercial vehicles.
What happens when the battery dies and you get pulled over by an aggressive cop who’s had a bad day and wants to take it out on someone? Let’s just say you’ll probably want to get the hard-wired version to be extra safe, if you can swing it. Otherwise, there are still plenty of advantages to an old-school metal plate. It might not be able to display Amber Alerts, but at least it doesn’t need a battery.