California first to get electronic license plates? Easier to track?

The California State Senate approves a bill that would allow for a pilot program to test digital license plates. Will it involve tracking?

Yes, sort of an iPad on your car's rear. KCRA-TV screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

California is the home of everything that's new, exciting, and, well, accidentally nefarious.

It's a delight, therefore, to hear that we here in the Golden State might be the first to get electronic license plates.

Yes, the young and the restless of tech will be able to have their new "TE$LA1" plate beamed directly to their car.

What could be more moving? I am beaming at Ars Technica for discovering that a bill has passed the California State Senate, allowing for a pilot program to launch the scheme.

If the Governor signs the bill, 0.5 percent of Californians might enjoy this perk quite soon.

They can look forward to rolling down their beautiful hills and having the word "EXPIRED" suddenly appear on their backside. (The car's, that is.)

What fun it will be to see Ferraris with the word "STOLEN" -- or Priuses with the word "TASTELESS."

Actually, I'm not sure that last one will be an option. Even so, the sheer instancy and convenience will fascinate many.

The suspicious (which ought, these days, to include most people) might wonder whether these license plates -- which very probably will be accessed through a mobile data network -- will let the powers that be know where people are, yes, all the time.

The bill doesn't seem clear about this. What is clear is that the company that operates the system will have access to everyone's location.

That company is Smart Plate Mobile, which doesn't appear to have so much as a Web site currently.

Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Attorney Lee Tien told Ars Technica that the DMV would hopefully not have access to location information.

However, we all know how porous digital walls can be.

As with so many digital creations, the weak spot for people is the convenience. Some interviewed by KCRA-TV said they'd pay extra in order to not stand in the DMV line.

And so, yet more personal information might be traded to save a few minutes of boredom.

 

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