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Electronic License Plates Expose Uninsured Drivers

Solar-powered e-tags could change license display to indicate when a car has been stolen or is uninsured.

Daniela Walker
Daniela Walker on June 14, 2013. @emptyofpocket

Government officials in South Carolina are in early discussions to bring electronic plates to cars around the state. Replacing traditional metal plates, these e-tags would enable police officers to clearly see if a car has been stolen or is uninsured.

South Carolina company Compliance Innovations developed the e-plates with hopes that the state will test them in a pilot program on government-owned cars. The image would display the license plate, and would link electronically to the DMV, so the department could send a signal to the tags that could read ‘STOLEN’ or ‘SUSPENDED’ as the case may be.

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The plates are made of electronic paper that uses the vibrations of the car as well as a solar transparent film to collect power. Says co-founder of the company, David Findlay:

It’s the first of its kind, It’s not an LCD or an LED. It’s a new technology that allows you to hold the image with no power whatsoever for over 10 years. The only time it needs power is when you’re changing the status or the image on the plate.

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The company argues that while more costly than the traditional $7 metal plates (the makers are trying to reduce the cost to under $100/plate), the e-tags would save the government money by making it easier to identify all the uninsured cars and those with expired tags. And any fears of a Big Brother situation can be assuaged. Says other Compliance co-founder Brian Bannister:

No one entity could actually track an individual vehicle. It would require three court orders: to the DMV; to us; and the (cellular) carrier themselves to actually be able to locate a vehicle.

Compliance Innovations

Thinking...