South Carolina Considers Electronic License Plates… Will Expose Uninsured Drivers
The classic road-trip license plate game is about to get more interesting. Next time travelers start looking for license plates from every state, they may be able to spot South Carolina’s much easier—and criminals will have a lot harder time driving illegally. Lawmakers in the Palmetto State are considering a proposed pilot program that would replace traditional, metal license plates with electronic versions.
The electronic plates, developed by Compliance Innovations, would be linked to the Department of Motor Vehicles records. The plates would automatically update if a driver’s license was suspended, insurance lapses or registration expires, boldly displaying words such as “UNINSURED,” “SUSPENDED” or “EXPIRED” in large red letters. They could also display statuses such as “STOLEN,” or “AMBER ALERT,” allowing police to more easily identify perpetrators’ vehicles. Although the DMV could update a plate with the push of a button, the electronic plates could not be used to track a vehicle.
“We actually put that wording on the license plate across the top and, depending on how the state wants it, it could be in bright red, and we can actually flash the plate, have it flashing as it goes down the road,” said Brian Bannister, co-founder of the company.
The e-paper display, similar to what is used in a Nook, would be powered by solar film coverings and a vehicle’s vibrations, rather than using energy from the car’s battery. The plates would only need energy when the display is updated.
“It’s not an LCD or an LED. What it’s made of is electronic paper. It’s a new technology that allows you to hold the image with no power whatsoever for over 10 years,” said Compliance Innovations co-founder David Findlay. “The only time it needs power is when you’re changing the status or the image on the plate.”
Although the e-plates would cost significantly more than typical metal plates—just less than $100 compared to about $5 apiece—their implementation could save the state money in the long haul. How? According to the CBS affiliate WSPA, South Carolina loses $150 million a year on drivers without insurance and with expired tags. And according to Findlay and Bannister, a reduction in uninsured drivers would ultimately lower insurance rates for South Carolina drivers.