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California to become the first state to test digital license plates

The E Ink plates will run on batteries, feature GPS tracking and will cost $699 from select dealers.

Reviver Auto

California is testing an E Ink (think Amazon Kindle screen) wirelessly configurable license plate and if you're one of 24 lucky Sacramento residents (already questionable, because Sacramento), you can give the state $699 of your dollars plus $7 per month to have the privilege of being the first people to get one.

You're probably yelling at your laptop now about that $699 price tag, and hey, we feel you on that. That's a chunk of change for a license plate, especially one that can track you but there are some possible uses for the plate that are kind of cool. We'll dig into those.

First of all, you'd never have to repurchase vehicle registration tags. The electronic plate would update automatically to show your current registration. This is mildly convenient for regular folks but super convenient for fleets. Gingerly applying stickers to dozens of cars seems like it would be a real time-suck. Finally, having a wirelessly configurable electronic plate lets it display localized warnings for road conditions or accidents. No more wondering why traffic is so slow because the guy in front of you's license plate is telling you what's what.

According to the California DMV, these plates would not be available in its offices, instead only to be sold through select vehicle dealerships by its manufacturer, San Francisco-based Reviver Auto. California isn't the only state looking to give digital license plates the old college try; Texas, Florida and Arizona are planning on rolling out their own programs this year.