IMAGE: Reviver Auto

Smart license plates?

Think about it: the vehicle license plate was introduced more than a century ago, and since then, has barely evolved: it’s a still a piece of metal, or acrylic, offering better visibility, its numbering shows how much the number of vehicles on the roads has grown, and there have been some legislative changes that have added a little more information to it. Otherwise, that’s it.

Now it seems change is on the way: Dubai says it will begin testing smart plates in May. Essentially, the new license plates are a high-definition screen attached to the vehicle via anti-theft screws, allowing the vehicle to be sensorized in the case of an accident and immediately notify emergency services. In addition, the new plates would warn if the vehicle had been stolen, along with information about payment of parking fees, while displaying road testing status, insurance or road tax payments, facilitating communication between vehicles to provide data on traffic jams or accidents, and even allowing vehicle owners to customize their plates.

Similar technology was announced back in 2013 in California and began testing last year throughout the United States, including features to speed up paperwork or to provide other functions and that could even be an open platform for developers once the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) had given its approval. The idea, obviously, is to advance in the idea of ​​the connected vehicle by turning the license plate into a tablet with extended functions. There are obviously some privacy issues at stake here: a connected car provides information on its location, while other data or diagnostics could be obtained through the OBD port. The company that won the contract in the United States to manufacture these intelligent license plates, or rPlates, Reviver Auto, outlines its possibilities:

The idea of our vehicle immediately contacting the emergency service in the event of an accident or communicating with others to warn us of traffic jams is certainly interesting, but… who wants the world to know we haven’t paid our tax or passed our road test, while telling the authorities our parking ticket has run out? How long before the vehicle itself issues a speeding fine when we go too fast? Connecting vehicles is an obvious step to take, but raises many issues, given that it will completely change the relationship between users and their vehicles, as well as giving the authorities greater powers, facilitating control that many people may find uncomfortable.

Introducing features to vehicles to prevent infractions and law breaking makes sense in theory, but would you really like a license plate that warns if your insurance, your road tax, your road test or your parking time limit have all expired?


(En español, aquí)

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