California is often used as the testbed for new automotive technology in the US, and after a number of years in development a new digital number plate pilot program is now getting underway in the Golden State.

Drivers in California will now be able to buy and fit these new plates that use the same E Ink screen technology as the Amazon Kindle e-reader and some wearable items, and also incorporate a wireless communication system. The revolutionary new plates were developed by a company called Reviver Auto and replace a traditional stamped plate. The system is available for both retail and commercial vehicles, although they don’t come cheap.

The Sacramento Bee newspaper is reporting that dealerships are expected to offer the plates at a price of US$699 (RM2,783), but that doesn’t include the cost of installation, the US$7 (RM27)-per-month service charge or the cost of registering the vehicle.

Anyone who chooses to pay this amount of money for the new plates will be able to register their vehicle online instead of going in person to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles). Annual registration can also be done electronically, so there will no longer be a need to have annual year stickers as there is at the moment.

When the vehicle isn’t moving, the digital plate can also be used to display custom messages, branding and advertisements, or more important information such as Amber alerts or road closures. The plate’s number will still be on display, but it will be shown smaller and tucked away into the right hand corner.

There’s also a built-in tracker that allows for geofencing, which is the creation of a virtual geographic boundary that allows software to trigger a response when the vehicle enters or leaves a particular area. The tracker can also be used to help an owner and the police locate a stolen vehicle, or at least the license plate, if it’s been removed from the vehicle.

Customers are also able to track and log trips based on time, distance and route using Reviver Auto’s software, and if a vehicle is sold along with its digital plate the new owner can quickly and easily transfer the vehicle’s ownership

Of course, much of this can already be done with other less costly systems that are already available. It will be interesting to see how well received the new plates are, and if they are something that will eventually become commonplace or disappear through lack of interest due to the expense.