Digital License Plates Just Approved For CA: How Do They Work?

Do you want digital plates? What’s the advantage of this technology, and does the cost justify the need, if there is any? That’s what California car owners are asking about the just-approved digital license plates. Are digital license plates just a gimmick, or do they serve a better purpose? We’ll break it down to see if it’s worth the hype.

How many states have digital license plates?

RPlate
Digital license plate RPlate | Reviver

California’s Motor Vehicle Digital Number Plates bill AB 984 just passed into law, although a pilot program has been ongoing since 2018. So far, of the 175,000 car owners who could participate, only 10,000 have done so for the testing initiative. Arizona and Michigan also have similar digital plate laws, with Texas allowing them for commercial vehicles. Pennsylvania and New Jersey are on the verge of approving them as well. 

According to the maker, Reviver, registration renewal means you don’t need to show up to the DMV. California already offers online renewals, so that is already possible with the current metal plates. “It’s really going to be much more beneficial for them and make our processing much more efficient,” DMV Policy Division deputy director Bernard Soriano told reporters. There are over 40 million vehicles in California. 

What are some of the advantages of digital license plates?

RPlate
Digital license plate RPlate | Reviver

One advantage is that the RPlate can display information about emergency situations. That can encompass anything from stolen car info to Amber Alerts. Another advantage is that the RPlate has tracking capabilities. That also raises a red flag over privacy concerns. You can, however, turn off the function.

For cars, the RPlates are battery-powered. So no hard wiring is necessary. They can also be used as personalized plates. RPlates need to be connected to a cellular network. So the monthly cost is $19.95 per month. For trucks, it is $24.95. 

You can also buy them on a yearly basis for $215.40 for cars, or $275.40 for trucks. However, you have to sign a four-year contract to get an RPlate. Truck RPlates must be hard-wired into the truck’s electrical system. 

Does the cost justify the advantages?

RPlate
Digital license plate RPlate | Reviver

For truck fleets, there are some added advantages to going the digital license plate route. Reviver offers RFleet Software Dashboard. Fleet operators can streamline things like vehicle registration and batch registration renewal. Now fleet owners can track every vehicle in the fleet.

So is the yearly fee for four years worth the advantages? For those fleets, especially without tracking already, this looks to be advantageous. Beyond that, it just seems more gimmicky than necessary. In the rare case of a car being stolen, displaying “I’m Stolen” could help. But a can of spray paint or placing another plate over it would obscure it fairly easily.

Nobody wants more complication and expense when the current metal plate system doesn’t add that. Some drivers will have to have it, just like with personalized plates. But RPlates look to be more of a fashion statement than an advantage. 

RELATED: Why Do Some Police Cars Have Cameras on Their Trunks?