By on June 11, 2013


South Carolina’s WSPA TV is reporting that the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles is considering doing away with stamped metal plates and replacing them with new, electronic tags that would be linked to a central computer database. According to WSPA’s website, the new plates use “electronic paper” technology that can hold an image without power for up to 10 years. A clear coating on the plates could also generate small amounts of electricity, which would be required to change the image, from sunlight or even vibrations generated when a car is in motion.

The new plates would be linked to a central network and the image could be changed at the push of a button to alert law enforcement when the DMV receives notice that a car is stolen, uninsured, has expired tags or an when an operator’s license has been revoked. The DMV is quick to add that, while they would be able to receive signals, the electronic plates will not mount transmitters and cannot, therefore, be used to track a vehicle.

Currently, metal plates cost between $3 and 7$ to produce and the new plates are still more than $100. Despite the additional costs, South Carolina believes they will come out ahead as the new technology will help the state collect an estimated $150 million that the state loses each year to people who fail to renew their registrations. They also claim that consumers may also benefit from reduced insurance costs as uninsured drivers become easier for law enforcement officers to detect.

I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords and look forward to a better, brighter future in their service.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He writes for any car website that will have him and enjoys public speaking. According to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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42 Comments on “South Carolina Studying Computer Networked Electronic License Plates...”

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    This is crap, it will make driving more expensive and lead to having these things stolen, imagine one of them on an old beater car, it will be worth more than the car itself.

    • 0 avatar

      You can buy items with this technology at WalMart for $50, so it’s neither expensive nor valuable.

      It’s still a silly idea though.

    • 0 avatar

      Its like that now. Add up an average plate in Florida
      $78 – title transfer
      $75 – annual registration
      $33 – plate iteself
      $225 – initial registration/impact

      That’s over $400.

      • 0 avatar

        Man, I didn’t have to do anything like that in FL – they let me transfer my old license plate. The funny thing was, I’d had a car registered in Florida years before, and traded the car in California. A few years later, I registered the new car in Florida – they let me transfer my old plate.

        The initial new wheels fee is only if you aren’t replacing another Florida registered vehicle.

        And with the option of renewing for two years at a time, and never having annual vehicle inspections, I’ll continue to keep it registered in Florida, here in The Lone Star state.

  • avatar

    Is this a more cost-efficient approach than a network of fixed & mobile readers? Will these super-plates become the driver’s responsibility when damaged or inoperable? They’re going to have to devise a much more secure method of attachment, to prevent plates with negative messages from getting switched, or- are they going to accompany the plate with some RFID tag that ties the plate to the vehicle?

    I don’t have a problem with the privacy implications since a network of plate scanners combined with ez-pass could provide all the tracking data the state could desire.

  • avatar

    I’m guessing it would take hackers about a week to figure out how to change your tag number.

  • avatar

    Right now, my state knows if an inspection sticker is expired and the will not allow registration renewals an they do so with steel plates. Many cop cars today are equipped with tag reader cameras on the trunk and they can easily find expired registrations, tickets, etc against the registered owner. Once the holy grail of the parking industry, plate recognition software has gone mainstream. There is no need for this kind of special plate unless there are other uses for it besides a magic change to “expired” or “suspended”. I strongly believe this is just the next step to tracking where, when, and how your car is used, and it will all come wrapped up in a logical, unobtrusive package. But what a Trojan Horse…the government will get you with the plate, and corporate America will get with the “snapshot” type of device which will no doubt become mandatory in the future…

  • avatar

    And these new plates will finally accommodate the state’s new slogan, “South Carolina: More Than Just a Yankee Snowbird Speed Trap”

    That’s the real goal here — image management.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    Did I miss the part about backlighting, since this stuff is not reflective at night?

    The upside is that this negates the tracking of high-speed automated plate-reading cameras.

  • avatar

    The current plates cost between $3 and $7 to manufacture? The logical move would be to move to a synthetic material and it should lower the cost to 50c. Keep it cheap and keep it reliable – putting a Kindle on the back of your car is not the solution.

  • avatar

    So, here is my concern.

    Someone gets laid off and misses a insurance payment or can’t pay a parking ticket. So, the plate flips to “suspended” and they can’t get to the interview to get the job so they can pay the insurance/ticket.

    It seems there should be a hardship exemption.

  • avatar

    I’m sure Nikki Haley would get a warm welcome at the ’16 GOP Convention with this sort of idea. Maybe they could tie it into the PRISM initiative. /sarcasm

  • avatar

    Someone’s cousin sells electronic license plates.

  • avatar

    From the light bulbs we are permitted to buy to the toilet we take a dump in. From the shower head to the food we eat. From the cars we can drive-and the mileage it gets-to the seat belt we are forced to wear.

    Our government is always looking out…..for itself.

    • 0 avatar

    • 0 avatar

      Light bulbs were forced to become more efficient. Incandescent bulbs have actually made the cut.

      Toilet paper is degradable actually for septic tanks which is largely a personal issue.

      Cars follow rules on shared public space.

      The list goes on and on and each time you open your mouth you sound like an ignorant fool. It makes me sad you live in that realm.

  • avatar

    I don’t see the issue with these.

    They don’t track you, and all they really do is to enforce laws which are already on the books, and with which I think most people don’t have an issue.

    Should people with suspended licenses/registrations be allowed to drive?

    Hacker/counterfit concerns are legit, but assuming those are resolved, then so what?

    Trust me, when your car is totaled by an uninsured, 19 year old with no assets, who then tries to flee the scene (but is chased down by a witness on a motorcycle)- you realize pretty quick that other peoples’ irresponsibility is your problem.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I see plenty of expired tags here in Oklahoma. Beside that, I have been hit by people who fled before their number plattes could be taken down. If the plates on two cars hitting each other could simultaneously detect vibrations and then flag those plates with the same ID number, it would be easier to catch a fleeing perpetrator.

  • avatar

    “Despite the additional costs, South Carolina believes they will come out ahead as the new technology will help the state collect an estimated $150 million that the state loses each year to people who fail to renew their registrations.”

    Because John Q. Motorist will pay for it ($100 plate cost, 50$ RFID programming $200 transmission tower fee, etc.) and the state gets the $150 million.

    Plus you get to spend another $100 if you ever get rear-ended.

    • 0 avatar

      My front license plate takes a beating from inconsiderate parallel parkers too. This is just another progressive policy to price the working class out of car ownership.

    • 0 avatar

      You do realize that all government money comes from the public, right? More money to them = more money to the people, all things being equal. The question is just how much of it is going to get stolen, but that’s an issue regardless of how much money the government is taking in from scofflaws who don’t pay for their tags.

      • 0 avatar

        The IRS spent $50,000,000 on office parties to thank themselves for their role in neutralizing their boss’s political adversaries through persecution. Spending money on the government is the gift that keeps on giving.

        • 0 avatar

          Wow, that statement is so stupid I think my brain shut down for a minute. No conservative political groups were denied non-profit status. They were trying to hide in a tax group that wasn’t for them and the only distinxtion Between the two was releasing names. So if you’re such a powerful movement you should have no problems releasing names.

          That being said, no, the government isn’t pricing the working class out of cars.

  • avatar

    Surely $100 a plate means $200 per car. Why not move to LESS expensive solutions. Registration authorities here have eliminated the windscreen sticker saving costs by extensive use of cameras on cop cars which constantly scan all the cars around them. Offenders pop up immediately. The only change I can see with these plates is that citizens can now spot and report their neighbours who drive unregistered. The Stasi would have loved it.

  • avatar

    Whew ~!

    This doesn’t bode well in my eyes .


  • avatar

    Their concern and ingenuity when it comes to revenue enhancement is laughable when contrasted against their concern for more serious topics.

    I.e. when it comes to collecting our money, and finding new ways to collect our money, and finding new sources for collection, look out. These folks are brilliant, dedicated, and hard working. The other “stuff,” education, crime, health, effectively and honestly managing the money collected…eh…not so much.

  • avatar

    $100 versus $8 for a ‘wonder’ technology that can easily be undone with a little of the wife’s clear nail polish applied in the right places?

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