Dumb license plates are about to get smart

Reviver says it has several states ready to slap a sort of Kindle on the back of your car.

Brian Cooley Editor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and The PHM HealthFront™. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
Expertise Automotive technology, Smart home, Digital health Credentials
  • 5G Technician, ETA International
Brian Cooley
2 min read

The Reviver license plate looks like a Kindle turned on its side and screwed to the back of your car. It will open the door to radical change in the most dated part of your vehicle, that stamped piece of aluminum that dates back to 1903.

Like almost everything these days, the Reviver plate consists of a display (monochrome, bi-stable in this case), wireless connectivity, a battery and a processor. Those components allow it to blow apart the current license plate model in many ways:

  • Instantly updated registration status; no more stickers. That could also mean pay-by-the-month options.
  • Easy flexibility between types of plate, to support a cause or show your style.
  • Parking status indication that could dovetail with smart parking apps and services.
  • Amber alerts and other public service messaging.
  • Ease of management for large fleets.
  • Reduction of theft and fraud: The plate won't work if it's stolen from the car it should be on.
  • Advertising of various kinds, of course.

Reviver's control center sits between your DMV and the plates to manage what's displayed on them, but registration authority and contours of what the plate can and cannot display remain with the DMV and the state's legislature, troopers or highway patrol.

The company says it's ready for 2018 deployment on up to 100,000 cars in California, mostly fleet and commercial vehicles to start, and near adoption in Florida, Arizona and Texas. Note those are all states with fairly trivial winter weather; I'll be anxious to see how the plates perform in Detroit in January.

Reviver is still sorting out some intriguing issues at this time:

  • How much the plates will cost and who pays that cost.
  • How the plates will move past fleets. Luxury car dealers may offer them first as a premium option.
  • What limits each state may place on extraneous messaging that can be displayed on the plate.
  • When, and if, DMVs will adopt pay-by-the-month.

In the broader scheme of connected cars, the Reviver plate seems like a midterm solution on the road to cars losing plates altogether and emitting their status to the cloud and local receivers. But that's a long way down the road, and a dynamic, connected plate like this is a big step in modernizing the original automotive data platform for now.