Get Ready Sacramento, Digital License Plates Are Coming

California is testing new digital license plate technology, and Sacramento just ordered a bunch of them.

By DAVID on May 29, 2018
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

It started testing in California after the new year (and I mean they were on cars January 1st), and Sacramento was just named a new test city. Digital license plates are new to cars, though the technology has been around for years. They’re literally a display that can be changed and updated via wireless communication. No more tin plates, replaced with a screen. Talk about too many screens in our lives… The technology behind the plates is just like the Kindle e-readers. The displays use very little battery power, and are easy to read. They’re basically a tablet bolted to the back of your car.

The new plates are DMV controlled, meaning the DMV can update what the plate displays. Yes, your actual license plate number will always be displayed. However, if the DMV or state wants to display an ad for city services or even a missing person report, they can. The license plate number will simply be displayed in one of the corners, and the rest of the screen will be used for whatever deemed appropriate at the time. An added benefit of the plates is that they’re GPS aware, so if you need to have a certain parking pass for a certain area, that may also be displayed when you’re parked.

At the moment, only a few personal private vehicles are using the plate. The majority of the testing is being done on fleet vehicles. Fleet managers see it as a possible new way to keep track of their cars, where they are, how much they’re driven, etc. The city of Sacramento ordered 24 brand new Chevy Volts to use for the city, and they’re all coming with the new digital plates. So you’ll probably be seeing them downtown soon.

As far as using the plates on personal vehicles, there are some benefits. The GPS tracking will let police track a car if it’s stolen. The potential use for parking passes we mentioned above is another great benefit. The cost is a downside though, they’re about $700 from dealerships when you buy a new car. Plus, there’s an installation cost if you’d rather have someone handle that for you. Also, there’s a $7 per month charge to keep them connected. So for now, the good old fashioned tin plates are probably the best option for most of us. And yes, you’ll still be able to get the tin plate, that’s not going anywhere any time soon. Check out some more info on the digital plates in Sacramento here.

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