By on June 22, 2010

Unsure of what to do about its nearly $20b budget deficit, California is entertaining some pretty wild ideas. And no, not legalizing and taxing marijuana. According to Yahoo News, State Sen. Curren Price is introducing legislation that would replace license plates with digital versions which

would mimic a standard license plate when the vehicle is in motion but would switch to digital ads or other messages when it is stopped for more than four seconds, whether in traffic or at a red light. The license plate number would remain visible at all times in some section of the screen.

Yes, advertising on license plates. Ray LaHood’s distracted driving crusade be damned, California is on a mission to prove that the movie Idiocracy was right. Luckily there’s a slight hitch…

Obviously converting all of California’s 32m registered vehicles to digital license plates won’t be so cheap. At least, it wouldn’t be cheap if there were digital license plates available on the market. Which there aren’t. The bill would have California’s DMV work with firms like San Francisco-based Smart Plate, which is developing digital license plate technology but has yet to bring it to market. Except Smart Plate doesn’t especially want to be associated with the legislation. SP’s CEO tells Yahoo News

The idea is not to turn a motorist’s vehicle into a mobile billboard, but rather to create a platform for motorists to show their support for existing good working organizations

Senator Price, meanwhile, insists that other states are looking into this technology as well. But even he seems to realize that he may just be a little bit ahead of his time. He bleats

We’re just trying to find creative ways of generating additional revenues. It’s an exciting marriage of technology with need, and an opportunity to keep California in the forefront

On the forefront of what exactly, the reader is left to decide.

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34 Comments on “California Budget Crisis Fix Is In: Digital License Plate Ads...”


  • avatar
    Stingray

    I guess the motorist is going to get some money for using his car as a publicity billboard.

    Back to reality… no, even worse, the new plate cost will be paid by the car owner. *rolleyes*

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    So if the revenue goes to the state, presumably it’s the state who controls what messages are displayed on my plate. Do I get any say in what messages are displayed on my vehicle? Can a politician I don’t like buy time on my car?

  • avatar
    brettc

    Maybe Brawndo can buy California’s state government, then they can pay for all of the costs associated with the plates. After all, it’s got electrolytes.

  • avatar

    It will cost more to manufacture, the motorist will have to retrofit their car with an always on power source for it, car manufacturers will have to add always on power to new cars, it will consume electricity therefore reducing gas mileage (a tiny amount, but significant over 32 million cars), a wireless update network will have to be setup & paid for. Yeah. Great idea, Senator Price. Stupid methane breathers.

  • avatar
    tced2

    Back of the envelope calculation…
    $20B deficit,
    California has 32M registered cars?
    That’s $625 per car being raised by each electronic plate. Good Luck.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot indeed.

    I like the idea about legalizing and taxing marijuana better. Between the two ideas, I could see pot getting legalized and generating revenue before this license plate idea even gets to the prototype stage.

    It sounds like some of the legislators may have been doing “research” before the legalization has taken place…

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      +1 Give me legalized pot and legal prostitution before this e-plate crap. Tax both of them the way tobacco is taxed now. That’s got a better chance of working.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Besides the the revenue legalization would generate, think how much they’d save in enforcement and incarceration costs.

    • 0 avatar
      John R

      +1. Was going to say the same thing.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve got some news for you. Escorts don’t want their business legalized. Paying taxes reduces their income. The quality escorts are in no danger of arrest because the cops are only interested in suppressing the street trade and the attendant crime it brings. The only beneficiaries of legalization are the Heidi Fliesses of the world not the women or indeed the customers.

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      I never said the escorts want it. I the taxpayer want it. I don’t use weed and I don’t pick up call girls, I just think given the amount of legal drugs we consume in this country and the amount of sex on tv, in music, and in movies; we’re being pretty damn hypocritical. And I hate hypocrisy.

    • 0 avatar

      But Heidi Fliess wants it legal because the internet has ended her monopoly on information and her former employees who she once exploited can now spend $1000 for a photo shoot and a website and capture the Madame’s rent. I am with the girls on this. Empirically legalized prostitution leads to human trafficking and the exploitation of women by both male and female pimps. The sex trade is one of the few areas where legalization only benefits the state and the retail operator to detriment of the provider and their customers.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    The license plate number would remain visible at all times in some section of the screen.

    Will this plate be e-secure? There could be significant incentive$$$ to crack plates for number editing and ad (re)placement. If the plate is on a wireless network, will my car (and movement) be tracked?

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    Electronic license plate advertising: great way to add complexity, cost, citizen resentment and data vulnerability to a simple item that has been working fine for decades.

  • avatar
    UnclePete

    This is the stupidest idea I’ve heard in a while, and most legislatures have no end of stupid ideas.

    • 0 avatar
      dwford

      Agreed. Not only is an incredibly stupid idea to begin with, but who will decide what ads get put on the plates. I sure wouldn’t want to come back to my car to find it displaying “Summer’s Eve – Douche.” Yikes!

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    Idiocracy is not the worst of all possible futures.

    At least Starbucks would have a product worth stopping in for.

  • avatar
    davejay

    Bah. If you’re going to make drivers have advertising — foolish as that is — then just add a new law that says drivers are only legal if they have a valid license plate AND a bumper sticker in a specific location that carries a required advertisement. Much cheaper to implement, much easier to enforce (you don’t have to see the car stopped to check) and more profitable (the ads are shown all the time.)

  • avatar
    sfenders

    Ten deficit-reducing ideas that make more sense than this one:

    1. Sell naming rights to the state.

    2. Advertising space on state representatives’ foreheads.

    3. Corporate sponsorship for state Senate bills (The Keep the Coast Safe From Terrorism act, sponsored by Exxon Mobil; the Get Back at those Greedy Bankers act, sponsored by Goldman Sachs).

    4. Plant some shiny metal nuggets in streams, fake some drill core results, try to create a new gold rush.

    5. Have a big yard sale.

    6. Hold an auction for a date with the Governator. If Warren Buffet got 2.6 million for lunch, just think what Arnie could get for a dinner and a movie.

    7. Create a distraction, then invade and plunder Mexico, hoping nobody will notice.

    8. Get some clever lawyers to sue BP for a few billion dollars, claiming their oil spill has hurt Hollywood movie sales due to damage to the reputation of the whole country.

    9. Become a bank holding company, to make it easier to get bailed out by the Fed.

    10. Come up with a really good Ponzi scheme.

    • 0 avatar
      Lumbergh21

      Ten deficit-reducing ideas that make more sense than this one:

      1. Sell naming rights to the state.

      Would those be worth anything?

      2. Advertising space on state representatives’ foreheads.

      Not a bad idea; their swelled heads offer quite a bit of space on the outside as well as the inside.

      3. Corporate sponsorship for state Senate bills (The Keep the Coast Safe From Terrorism act, sponsored by Exxon Mobil; the Get Back at those Greedy Bankers act, sponsored by Goldman Sachs).

      I’m betting that corporations like the current corporate legeslative sponsorship program that keeps their names out of it.

      4. Plant some shiny metal nuggets in streams, fake some drill core results, try to create a new gold rush.

      California outlawed gold mining last year. I know a couple of people who actually earned decent money mining gold during the summer. Their claims are worthless now.

      5. Have a big yard sale.

      The Governator did that last summer, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we had another one this year.

      6. Hold an auction for a date with the Governator. If Warren Buffet got 2.6 million for lunch, just think what Arnie could get for a dinner and a movie.

      He did sell autographs as part of last year’s yard sale/auction; so maybe dinner this year isn’t so far fetched.

      7. Create a distraction, then invade and plunder Mexico, hoping nobody will notice.

      Sorry, that’s only allowable in the other direction. I doubt that the Mexican government would be nearly as understanding as California’s.

      8. Get some clever lawyers to sue BP for a few billion dollars, claiming their oil spill has hurt Hollywood movie sales due to damage to the reputation of the whole country.

      Actually it seems the damage to our country’s reputation has nothing to do with BP.

      9. Become a bank holding company, to make it easier to get bailed out by the Fed.

      Now that’s just silly. I don’t see how that could possibly happen with the tight restrictions on federal bail out dollars.

      10. Come up with a really good Ponzi scheme.

      Did you read how California “balanced” last years budget? We already went the Ponzi scheme route, and it’s about to collapse.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Hey, I really like #2! We could use that here in Michigan…

      Oh, wait, they already beat me to it…

    • 0 avatar
      tced2

      concerning #6,
      If the governator gets the same amount as Warren Buffet for a lunch, it will take only about 7,500 lunches to cover $20B – about 20 years worth of “lunches”.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    So what keeps a good hacker could take over the license plate/ID side of the software and making it read any number he wants? Sounds like a gift to a savvy criminal. License plate alteration is still a crime, too. That’s why we made them out of stamped metal. This idea need a big rethinking, then a quiet death.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    First of all, I think I had that same Smurf plate on my bike as a kid!

    Anyway, have they given any thought to the longevity of these things? And what if the car is hit from behind? You can’t exactly bend one of those back I would think.

    The metal license plate on the back of my car is almost eleven years old, and has seen almost 220,000 miles of use on four different cars. It’s a little rusty and faded from the plastic laminate having peeled off in places, and has quite the stack of renewal stickers on it, but at least you can still read it, and there aren’t any electronics to go bad on it.

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!!!

  • avatar
    ProfessorSlow

    Give me the hack that lets me randomize the plate number when I drive past a speeding camera and I’ll push any ad you want, darling.

  • avatar

    Legalizing pot will blow a hole in the War on Drugs. Can’t risk that.

    Instead, the legislature goes for this. And don’t think for a moment that some politician is NOT thinking of ways to earn kickbacks and favors from this. Because they are. And it doesn’t matter if the costs are triple the amount of potential profits, just as long as the right people are getting their cut.

    • 0 avatar
      Zeknichov

      Don’t we want to blow a hole in the war on drugs? The war on drugs costs lots money and increases the danger of drugs. Legalized drugs would actually decrease the risk associated with drugs, would increase revenue from the state and decrease the power that criminal organizations hold. If we aren’t ready to legalize them all at least legalize marijuana, mdma, lsd, and mushrooms. It would generate a lot of profit, decrease crime and deaths related to drugs.

  • avatar
    Lumbergh21

    Doesn’t anybody here realize that California legalized pot years ago and is already collecting sales tax revenue on the multi-billion dollar business that became legal almost over night? Find a new cause to flog like legalizing amphetamines and taxing it (possibly the largest industrial/manufacturing business still in California).

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Or they could just cut spending??

    Nah!

    Working in government means you never have to say you’re sorry, admit you made a mistake or accept less funding for pet projects. 10% unemployment be damned! I want $2mm for a zoo expansion project. It’ll only increase your taxes by 5%. Besides, it’s for the children.

  • avatar
    njdave

    My question is, if you legalize pot and prostitution, does that mean you have to smoke pot before you nail a hooker? Or does the hooker have to get high before she does you? For some guys I know the poor hooker would have to be REALLY high. One guy I know, I don’t think there is enough cannabis in all of Mexico to get a girl to sleep with him….

  • avatar

    This calls for a TTAC investigation:
    What tech company will most likely benefit from these new plates?
    How much did that company contribute to the Sen. Price campaign fund?

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