Exploring the E-Plate: New Technologies in Licence Plates
By: Laura Solloway
Last updated: 21 January 2019
Car registration plates are used to identify you and your car. But unfortunately, they are not always 100% effective due to misidentification, licence plate theft and cloning. What if we told you, then, that emerging is a type of number plate with the potential to do so much more and accurately? It’s called an e-plate, and we’re going to explain a little bit about them.
An e-plate is defined as an electronic number plate that uses RFID (radio-frequency identification) tagging to enable automatic identification of a car. A car’s data is stored in the plate’s memory chip, allowing detection systems to pick up the information quickly and effectively.
As digitally stored information is much harder to clone, they are being increasingly used in government operations such as ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) in order to:
- Make identification faster and more reliable
- Identify stolen and handicapped cars
- Reduce uninsured and un-roadworthy vehicles that are costing the government to resolve
- Make access to driver records and information easier
- Enhance general security
But California is taking this idea one step further. Not only used for identification, but they are currently trialling e-plates with digital displays. By doing this, whenever a car is stopped in traffic the plates will temporarily display a rolling advert. The developers of these new plates aim to raise a significant amount of money from advertisers for the state.
In theory, yes. However, the trialling of digital number plates in California has been met with fears over possible problems:
The nature of an electronic plate means that it will include an inbuilt tracking device used for official monitoring/identification. Naturally, however, there are concerns over unnecessary intrusion of people’s privacy, although officials have made efforts to ensure users this will not happen.
Too much control
Another alleged feature of an e-plate is its ability to override car operations – they can turn off a car’s ignition. Providers claim this has been included to avoid a car being hacked and altered, or as a direct reaction to the car being stolen, however this could provide too much control. More specifically, individuals worry that the company will shut down an individual’s car at their own will, perhaps if they haven’t paid their subscription fees.
(Copyright Dom J/Shutterstock.com)
Potential risks aside, the practical potential of a digital/electronic licence plate is astounding. Their technological innovation opens up new possibilities, some benefits of e-plates include:
- Directly and visibly combatting issues of compliance - a government could immediately revoke the licence plate of stolen and uninsured cars (which could also allow insurance companies to reduce their premiums).
- Improving countrywide system efficiency - automatic toll road access, parking access, automatic payment scenarios etc. will be much faster and accurate.
- Aiding in safety on the road - governments and emergency services could provide drivers with surrounding traffic reports, weather advice, advice in a disaster, and more.
- Saving money - imagine if every car had a digital number plate. Even though they are definitely not the cheapest way to find number plates, the potential to reach this many people through cheaper means of advertising will save a significant amount of money for governments.
Unfortunately, electronic number plates aren’t yet available in the UK. They are being trialled in America, but considering their wide potential we predict that in a few years to come that may change. Keep your eyes peeled for developments, and while you wait why not check out some of the cheap number plates we have on offer?