Digital License Plates Vie For Place In The Connected Car Ecosystem

Digital License Plates and the Connected Car Ecosystem

The move toward a connected car ecosystem includes the potential use of digital license plates on vehicles — an effort that has now spread to Michigan. There, authorities have approved the use of the plates for vehicles registered in the state, which have also been tested in California.

Those developments come amid an increasingly rapid push to put more connected vehicles on roads — which, in turn, includes payments and commerce activities — as well as increasing attention to the rise of smart cities, in which those vehicles will play a major role. Digital license plates could, in time, support those connections.

For now, those plates are an expensive feature that seems more suited to personalization than anything related to payments and commerce. The plates, called Rplate, come from Reviver Auto, which also makes the Rplate connected car platform. The plates reportedly will cost Michigan drivers either $499 or $799, depending on the model; that cost does not include installation.

According to a report, “Rplate can automate vehicle registration renewals. You won’t have to affix a new peel-and-stick decal on your plate each year, because digital decals on the plate will show the world whether you’re current.”

Personalization and Geo-Fencing

The plates also offer more personalization features than typically come with traditional, non-digital vanity plates. “Customization possibilities include promoting your favorite charity, declaring your passion for a sports team or announcing a child’s academic or athletic prowess,” the report said, though “it’s not clear at this time how often vehicle owners will be able to change the custom messages or if any measures will exist to screen or censor messages.”

The plates also offer geo-fencing technology that, at least for now, is meant to track “government or business vehicles,” though it could soon help with automated parking and serve as a conduit for marketing tasks.

Besides California, states such as Arizona, Texas and Florida are moving toward use of digital license plates.

The technology could have a significant role in the connected vehicle ecosystem, and in the rise of smart cities.

Security and Marketing

According to another report, “digital plates eliminate the headache of paying tolls and metered parking, expedite the DMV’s onerous registration process, allow for precise GPS tracking and geo-fencing, and boast technology that might someday integrate with autonomous vehicles.” And that’s not all they could potentially do.

Digital license plates could “improve security at borders and checkpoints, and might someday be used as an alternative mechanism by which to capture transportation revenue: Since plates can track an individual vehicle’s precise mileage driven instead of gas consumed, local governments could more effectively tax road use rather than fuel consumption.” As well, “businesses will eventually be able to display advertisements on the plate targeted to specific locations made available through the system’s telematics.”

Smart Cities Rise

The spread of digital license plates comes amid growing interest in digital drivers’ licenses, as recent PYMNTS research on the rise of smart cities has demonstrated. “Millennials are likely to lead the adoption of digital identity tools and expect government services to deliver services digitally as well,” the report said. “There are already signs that certain government identification forms, such as drivers’ licenses, are going to go digital. Idaho, Colorado, Maryland and Washington, D.C. launched a test in 2016 to secure digital drivers’ licenses, and Wyoming joined the program the following year.”

Connected vehicles are poised for even more mainstream popularity in the coming few years, according to various observers, including Bisi Boyle, vice president of Internet of Things (IoT) platforms for Visa.

In a recent PYMNTS interview, she said the ecosystem for connected cars and trucks — and the retail and payment tasks they do and will support — is rapidly taking shape. “We are still in the infancy of that journey,” Boyle said. However, progress is happening, and pretty fast. Once OEMs and others learn how to get connected vehicles “right,” other players will copy and imitate what works. That will happen over the next 18 month to three years, she added.

They may be expensive and relatively uncommon, but it seems digital license plates will have a place in that ecosystem.