The California State Senate is considering a statewide conversion to non-renewable digital license plates that would be able to collect electronic information, such as determining whether a motorist has pre-paid a road toll, in a bid to do away with what sponsors feel is the costly, inconvenient process of producing, distributing and renewing traditional license plates.
A San Francisco-based startup company with lobbyists in Sacramento would supply (read: sell) the digital plates.
Advocates say the switch to digital would be convenient (no annual waiting at the DMV), cheap ($20 million a year less than traditional plates) and virtuous (the plates could issue Amber Alerts.)
Critics, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), say the plates could easily become a tool for warrantless, secret tracking of motorists’ movements.
“Law enforcement needs a warrant to be able to put a tracking device on your car,” said an EFF attorney. “It’s a possibility the way this program could be implemented, these smart plates could be that tracking device.”
California Senate Democrat Ben Hueso is sponsoring the bill.