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GCN : November 2013
16 GCN NOVEMBER 2013 • GCN.COM [BrieFing] California is piloting electronic license plates to improve ef ciency, lower the cost of DMV vehicle registration ser- vices and eliminate the need for vehicle owners, particularly eet owners, to receive physical registration tags by mail, according to a bill analysis by California's Senate Rules Committee. The Assembly Appropriations Committee said it will cost less than $50,000 for the DMV to administer the pilot program and complete the evaluation report. However, the plates most likely will come at a cost for drivers, said David Findlay of Com- pliance Innovations, an electronic license plate manufacturer. Findlay told Time magazine the plates could cost around $100, at least ve times the price of a typical license plate fee. The electronic plates would serve as alternatives to California's traditional metal license plate, plastic-coated registration stick- ers and paper registration cards. California's DMV annually registers approximately 26 million vehicles and performs over 10 million renewals. Senate Bill 806, signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown in early October, calls for the pilot to be established by Jan. 1, 2017. The pilot will be limited to no more than 0.5 percent of registered vehicles and vehicle owners who have volun- tarily chosen to participate. While the bill does not speci cally state which devices will be tested, the bill analysis did mention a pro- vider, Smart Plate Mobile, which was incorporated in 2009 and is based in San Francisco, as being "the company most interested in participating in such a pilot project." Smart Plate Mobile's plates are computer screens that would take on the size and appearance of a stan- dard California license plate. Since the plates can receive wireless updates from a central server, they could also display additional messages such as "stolen" or "expired." Smart Plate Mobile does not have a website. Artemio Armenta, a DMV spokesper- son, told Ars Technica that "postage costs associated with vehicle licensing and registration does exceed $20 mil- lion annually." A similar bill proposed in California in 2010 would have allowed adver- tisements to scroll on the screen if a car was stopped for more than three seconds, Ars reported. The ads were envisioned as an additional revenue source for the DMV. The current bill does not include pro- visions for advertising, the Sacramento Bee reported. California is not the only state considering electronic license plates. Florida passed a law last year allow- ing them, but the program does not yet have a start date. South Carolina and New Jersey have similar bills in progress. Many have expressed privacy con- cerns with the project, with the ACLU of Sacramento County invoking the term "big brother." Responding to concerns about tracking expressed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an amendment was added to California's bill to limit the data exchanged "to that data nec- essary to display evidence of registra- tion compliance. The department shall not receive or retain any information generated during the pilot program regarding the movement, location or use of a vehicle participating in the pilot program." Still, Lee Tien, an attorney at Elec- tronic Frontier Foundation, notes that while the DMV will not be receiving lo- cation information in the pilot, the com- pany providing the plates would, and it would control what is on the plates, reported the Capitol Hill Daily. "We're surprised and disap- pointed that this bill seems to be proceeding without any serious exploration of the privacy risks," Tien said. "Just because it's a pilot doesn't excuse the legislature of responsibility." Other potential concerns include the potential for the plates to be monitored or hacked by other par- ties. Ars noted that the technical de- tails of the program are unclear as well as how long plate information would be retained and who would have access to it. The DMV will be responsible for sharing the results of the pilot program with the California Legislature no later than July 1, 2018, Government Tech- nology reported. The report will ad- dress some of these privacy concerns, including whether the devices have the ability to transmit and retain informa- tion regarding vehicle location, move- ment or use. If the product does have that feature, the report will also include whether there are safeguards against the information falling into unauthor- ized hands. • California plans to pilot electronic license plates BY KATHLEEN HICKEY The electronic plates would be able to receive wireless updates, so they could display additional info, such as "Expired" or "Stolen."