In this digital day and age, technological advancements are being made daily. This is shaking up our world as we know it, raising the current standard of living by making things much more smart, efficient, and convenient. Now we can welcome a new piece of tech that will revolutionize our roads: digital license plates called “RPlates.”
RPlates are designed to be a digital display board for the driver’s license plate number, equipped with the same computer technology that’s in Amazon’s Kindle eBook Reader, plus a wireless communication system. The RPlate acts like a mini billboard, displaying advertisements when the vehicle is stopped, broadcasting DMV-approved personal messages controlled by the driver, and sending data of the car’s location.
Sacramento, California is the first city to test out this new invention where 116 of these high-tech tags are already in use as a part of a pilot program that began at the beginning of 2018. Now legal in the Golden State, the first 1,000 plates are on the market and are going out for a test drive. As of June, the digital plates went on sale in California for $699 ‒ not including installation ‒ plus an additional monthly fee of $7. The plate is likely to be sold in other states including Arizona, Washington, Florida, and Texas in a short amount of time, slowly spreading its availability across the nation.
So, are these digital plates worth the price over the regular metal tag?
Well, some perks of the RPlate are that it can automatically track down your car in the scenario that it gets stolen through its built-in GPS feature, even telling police whether the device has been detached. In addition to this, being that the RPlate’s sole purpose is to boost efficiency, a huge advantage of owning the high-tech tag is its ability to automatically pay your tolls and parking fees ‒ something most driver’s find a huge nuisance. Moreover, owners of the RPlate could say goodbye to the long lines at the DMV to renew their tag as the RPlate does it for you automatically.
Although the RPlate brings a slight convenience to certain tasks, it does come with a few cons that’ll turn some away. For one, the plate’s tracking system calls for zero privacy, as your location history can reveal your associations, where you go to work, and where you live. Another con is the possibility of your RPlate’s computer system being hacked, releasing the owner’s bank account information, home address, current location, and more.
“We want to look at ourselves as a laboratory for a lot of these technology companies,” said Louis Stewart, the city innovations officer. “Come to test in Sacramento, come to see how your product or service is viable.” We should expect to see thousands of cars flooding the Sacramento roads this time next year as a part of the invention’s test program. However, the question remains: do the benefits of this new technology outweigh the costs of potential lost privacy and heightened security risk? That all depends on who you ask, because it seems that people are becoming more and more okay with the cost of convenience.
by Ericka Miller