License Plate of the Future
June 11, 2013 1:14 PM   Subscribe

South Carolina wants to switch to digital license plates that will display messages related to the driver's eligibility to operate a vehicle. In 2010, California considered using similar technology to display advertising.
posted by reenum (109 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are still several things that need to be worked out, like reducing the size of the prototype e-tags so they're the same size as current license plates, and bringing down production costs.

The most important thing to get worked out is that it would have to be physically impossible for an innocent car to get marked STOLEN or AMBER ALERT. I could see this going wrong so many ways.
posted by bleep at 1:16 PM on June 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


Call me when I can use it to tell other drivers what I think of them.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:18 PM on June 11, 2013 [17 favorites]


They need to do something about the colors on that. The one screen grab they have of the suspended plate looks like it just says SPENDED. As in, I spended too much money on this fancy license plate.
posted by phunniemee at 1:18 PM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


says if the state switches to e-tags and that reduces the number of uninsured drivers, insurance companies would lower their rates.

Yeah right!
posted by QueerAngel28 at 1:21 PM on June 11, 2013 [19 favorites]


HELLO. STEALING PLATES. Only instead of costing $3 they cost just under $100 - Jesus, do I need to think of everything?

PS Can you imagine how much of an idiot you would have to be do to drive a car with an Amber Alert on it?
posted by phaedon at 1:23 PM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Even if these are effective at their stated goal, why is increasing the control of the state considered an a priori good? Make license plates more difficult to read I say.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 1:23 PM on June 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


Because people who have had their cars stolen want them back?
posted by kiltedtaco at 1:24 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


With the following presets, I'm all for it:

Slower traffic, keep right.
Stop tailgating me.
My turn signal's on, please don't speed up.
Turn on your lights.
Turn off your highbeams.


and on...
posted by Chuffy at 1:24 PM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Make them display the speed of the car at any given moment.
posted by Jehan at 1:26 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why not just put a large QR code on current license plates? We already have cell phones with enough processing power to visually parse and decode them, and police cars are already equipped with dashboard cameras and laptops.

Actually, why even bother to put QR codes on them at all. Open-road tolling already seems to passively scan current license plates without any hassle.

I think someone's been watching a little too much Back to the Future Part II....
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:27 PM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


If a driver's license has been suspended, the car's license plates will announce it.

Okay. What if the person driving the car isn't the person who registered it, and the person who is driving has a perfectly legitimate license? I borrow other people's cars all the time. My car is in fact registered in my partner's name.
posted by titus n. owl at 1:28 PM on June 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


With the following presets, I'm all for it:

You forgot: IF THIS VAN'S A'ROCKIN'...
posted by entropicamericana at 1:28 PM on June 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


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

Ha hah ahaha. Tell me another one.
posted by jamaro at 1:28 PM on June 11, 2013 [51 favorites]


Even if these are effective at their stated goal, why is increasing the control of the state considered an a priori good?

No one in this thread or in TFA is saying that.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:28 PM on June 11, 2013


It goes from "why don't we put STOLEN?" on car plates if they're reported stolen to "hey aren't RFID chips and QR codes more effective?" Of course the effective use of QR codes or RFID codes by the police would be to see if the car is registered in a poor or minority neighborhood so that they can find an excuse to pull the driver over and hassle them. It's shit. I think that making things more "technological" like this is just prone to increasing levels of abuse.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 1:29 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd rather equip all cars with a turret-mounted paintball gun and use that to tag the vehicles who are annoying. See a car that's a bunch of splotches, stay way.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:33 PM on June 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


The real reason, by the way, that this is a dumb idea is that we're not that far away from local police stations being able to buy a camera with good enough OCR and image processing in it to read the plates on every car that they drive behind or past. From there you just look up the plates in your state's DMV database for outstanding warrants or being reported stolen or what have you.

There's no reason to update this information on the plate itself. It invite vigilantism and abuse.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:33 PM on June 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


Aizkolari, that can be done already and has been done for the last 2-3 years.
posted by thewalrus at 1:35 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


You're basically taking the cameras and processing tech they're using to do out of state billing with this system in MA and putting them in patrol cars.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:35 PM on June 11, 2013


thewalrus: OK, great, so like I said this is a dumb idea.

Sorry for commenting 50,000 times in a row.
posted by Aizkolari at 1:36 PM on June 11, 2013


Because the backseat teevee screens in passing minivans aren't distracting enough. Make it so that our eyes are constantly pulled towards passing licence plates. Make it so that the driver sees white lights directly ahead, and has to constantly decide if those are oncoming vehicles or just ordinary licence plates.

Brilliant.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:36 PM on June 11, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yes, because what we really need are more flashing blinking light up distractions while we're driving! That is the most ensafening thing around!
posted by elizardbits at 1:36 PM on June 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


South Carolina is considering a proposal, still in its early stages, to switch from metal license plates to new electronic license plates, or e-tags, as a way to improve highway safetytrack your every move.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:38 PM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you want to see how this is being done now, google "ALPR patrol car", ALPR = automatic licence plate recognition. There's a whole group of software contractors and hardware companies making solutions to do this which they market to various law enforcement agencies.
posted by thewalrus at 1:38 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


This will be hacked immediately. Random vanity plates for everyone!
posted by tempestuoso at 1:38 PM on June 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Advertising? Oh, yeah, that's a good one. All we need are more distractions.

Frankly, more electronics just means more parts to go wrong.

Hats. We need hats. Sombreros for new learners. Fedoras for oldsters. Beanies with twirlers for convicted drunks. Yeah, hats would work!
posted by BlueHorse at 1:41 PM on June 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


For the last people people, SNOW CRASH was not a how-to guide! Stop trying to make it happen!
posted by The Whelk at 1:41 PM on June 11, 2013 [15 favorites]


This is dumb. Like the idiotic proposals that go around periodically to put GPS+Cellular tracking devices in all cars so we can have mileage-based tolling, there are much cheaper, much lower-tech, less-invasive solutions that do the same thing. The only thing they don't do is possibly funnel a ton of taxpayer dollars to somebody's cousin's friend's company, who thinks they'll get the contract to manufacture the technology, or give a bunch of moron politicians some whiz-bang stuff to talk about. Deploying a bunch of technology to solve a problem is never a good idea if you can do it in a simpler way.

E.g.: We already have automated license-plate reading systems that use machine vision to read the plate numbers. The prices on it are falling year by year, just like dashcam systems did a decade or two ago. In very short order, it will be practical to put one of them in every police car if we want to, probably fed off of the dashboard cam. So, rather than putting a stupid electronic plate on every car, you just upgrade the existing onboard system in the police cruiser to tell the police officer if the car they're following is stolen / subject to an amber alert / registered to someone with an outstanding warrant / whatever.

Right now, ANPR systems require fairly expensive cameras in order to get high success rates, but with some fairly minor tweaking of the plates to make the numbers easier for machine vision systems to read (more distinctive numbers, or make them bigger relative to the plate, higher contrast, etc.), you could probably improve read rates with less-expensive conventional cameras. That seems like a reasonable upgrade to me, if we want the police to have this capability (which I'm not certain is an unalloyed good, but taking it on premise).

You could probably come up with a typeface similar to the one used for the MICR line on checks (which is designed to be read using a magnetic stripe reader, not optically) but optimized for recognition from great distance when illuminated by a strong light source (e.g. a car's headlights, or a light mounted on-axis with the camera). You could make certain parts of the numbers more reflective than others, like the blotches on MICR numbers that make their magnetic signatures distinctive.

Wouldn't cost very much and I bet it would be more effective in the long run.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:44 PM on June 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


As if I would trust the DMV to never have a false positive on a suspended license, which is something they can't manage already. What a much better situation if your plate announced without your knowledge and to random strangers that some completely erroneous illegality applies to you. Then there's the near-inevitable hacking that will occur...
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:46 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is entirely backwards, if you are going to do anything of the sort make it so STOLEN or SUSPENDED cars can't drive, don't half ass it.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:46 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Look, The Whelk, we know you're all "Team Diamond Age" or whatever, but I am simply not wearing that much wool in summer, let alone a top hat.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:46 PM on June 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


I just deked my winter clothes, don't tell me I gotta compile them again.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:48 PM on June 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


yeah but those robopony things were rad
posted by elizardbits at 1:48 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Many styles of hat are incompatible with properly-adjusted headrests.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:48 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will make one billion dollars from my newly invented line of half-moon facade hats then.
posted by elizardbits at 1:49 PM on June 11, 2013


“Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, and devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.

Hiro used to feel this way, too, but then he ran into The Whelk. In a way, this was liberating. He no longer has to worry about being the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken.”
― Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash (minor editing ;)
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 1:50 PM on June 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


There's a whole group of software contractors and hardware companies making solutions to do this which they market to various law enforcement agencies.

They also market them to private companies, particularly ones in the repossession collateral recovery industry.

I'm told that in high-repo states, there are operations consisting of nothing but a tow truck with an ANPR system and a parking lot somewhere for storage. The operator just drives around big parking lots (e.g. shopping malls) until they get a hit on a repossessed vehicle. Thirty seconds later, after checking the VIN with a handheld bar code gun, they have it chained up and it's gone.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:50 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's all fun and games until Anonymous hacks your license plate and put SEX OFFENDER on it and you pull into work.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:51 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


South Carolina should spend some money on (re)paving the roads before they get all ambitious with the hi-tech license plates.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:53 PM on June 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


I can see one way this could be good for drivers: If your insurance gets cancelled and you don't know (cheque bounced, forgot to make payment, confusion on making payment, bank error, unpaid parking ticket from 15 years ago in another state finally catching up with you, DMV/Insurance SNAFU; whatever) you would find out before you drove anywhere.
posted by Mitheral at 2:00 PM on June 11, 2013


Yeah but they could accomplish the same thing with a text message alert to your phone.
posted by elizardbits at 2:02 PM on June 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


Most people don't even glance at their tires to see if they are low on air before getting in and driving away, they aren't going to look at their license plates either. With a cellular connection to the plate, the message could appear while you were behind the wheel and you wouldn't know it until you got pulled over or noticed the guy driving the car behind you do a Donald Sutherland in your rear view mirror.
posted by jamaro at 2:07 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought it was funny how the word STOLEN was slapped across the Native American (commemorative?) plate in one of the pictures in TFA.
posted by Mister_A at 2:08 PM on June 11, 2013 [18 favorites]


Call me when I can use it to tell other drivers what I think of them.

Just make everyone's plate their cell number.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:10 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Needs a scroll feature so we can be all like HEY GOOD LOOKIN' I'LL BE BACK TO PICK YOU UP LATER!
posted by jquinby at 2:12 PM on June 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


These are going to be touchscreen plates I assume?
posted by Mister_A at 2:14 PM on June 11, 2013


Mister_A: "I thought it was funny how the word STOLEN was slapped across the Native American (commemorative?) plate in one of the pictures in TFA."

Hahaha, I was just about to post that!

Years ago, when I got pulled over, after waiting an ungodly amount of time I remember asking the cop if she thought it would be beneficial to her to have an electronic license plate system with some form of UPC style code where she could scan it easily and all the data would pop up instead of whatever the fuck takes them 20 minutes... I think she was like "weirdo". Whatever.

Montana Minutemen must really hate this shit.
posted by symbioid at 2:20 PM on June 11, 2013


Their approach to this is all backwards. As much as I hate social media, in this application it could work. Give drivers a way to tag other drivers' plates, sort of like Yelp reviews on other drivers. So after some idiot get tagged 10 times for bad driving, their plate says BAD DRIVER. If he gets 20, he has to go to the DMV and retake the driving test.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:21 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Because people who have had their cars stolen want them back?

None of the stated goals actually require the e-paper license-plate part of the system! The license plate is updated by means of the cell network. All of the stated goals can be met with just the cell-radio part of the system. Stolen car, kidnapped kid? Ask it where it is à la "find my iphone". If you want to get all fancy and dystopian, attach the cell module to the CAN bus so it can immobilize the car, lock/unlock the doors, blink the lights, etc. (Hm, you could probably make a tidy profit today selling that as an aftermarket addon for $75. BRB, launching a Kickstarter…)

All this really is is some people looking for a market for their e-paper & energy harvesting stuffs, and their great idea is, "Hey, how about we take the fixed, identifying marker on the car and make it dynamically alterable over the net?".
posted by hattifattener at 2:27 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


So after some idiot get tagged 10 times for bad driving, their plate says BAD DRIVER. If he gets 20, he has to go to the DMV and retake the driving test.

Because there is no possible way this could ever go wrong or be abused by certain individuals for petty reasons? I'm pretty sure there's more than 20 people in a grade at a high school for example, and if forcing a bullied kid to re-take their driver's test only needed 20 other drivers' "votes" that could be scared up pretty quickly I think. Just one example after about 5 seconds of thinking, I'm sure the masses could think of others easily enough.
posted by barc0001 at 2:28 PM on June 11, 2013


How are these plates powered? Will the car owner need to rig a wire to their car's electrical system? Or are they battery powered? If so, what happens when the battery dies?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:30 PM on June 11, 2013


Because there is no possible way this could ever go wrong or be abused by certain individuals for petty reasons? I'm pretty sure there's more than 20 people in a grade at a high school for example, and if forcing a bullied kid to re-take their driver's test only needed 20 other drivers' "votes" that could be scared up pretty quickly I think. Just one example after about 5 seconds of thinking, I'm sure the masses could think of others easily enough.




On the positive side, no politician would legally be allowed to drive a car.
posted by ishrinkmajeans at 2:30 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Behind every idiotic government proposal is a halfwitted vendor seeking to capture a new market.
posted by aramaic at 2:34 PM on June 11, 2013 [13 favorites]


And you think forcing people to retake the driver's exam is a bad thing? I think they should make the test much harder to pass and eliminate at least half the drivers on the road. Think of this as a way to get the worst drivers off the road.

Of course there are ways to address your other issues, like limiting the number of tags you can hand out, sort of an antispam protection.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:35 PM on June 11, 2013


CHECK ENGINE LIGHT STILL ON
HAD A DRINK WITH DINNER, MAYBE TWO
WILL FIX IT NEXT PAYCHECK
GOTTA COUPLE BUCKS GAS TANK ON E NEED TO GET HOME TO SICK WIFE
THIS MODEL IS UNDER A RECALL
YES THOSE RIMS WERE EXPENSIVE
posted by perhapses at 2:38 PM on June 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


For all the people who think this is dumb. IT IS NOT. Some politico, realative or friend thereof will "earn" a tidy sum from this venture. As always. Follow the money.
posted by notreally at 2:39 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eh, once self driving cars hit the road, everyone's car will be as skinned like an obnoxious MySpace Profile anyways. Let's just sit back and enjoy the ride.
posted by FJT at 2:39 PM on June 11, 2013


Things have gotten so out of hand with the surveillance state and I feel like we just need to start over with how we think about concepts as simple as licensing and registration of our vehicles. So, as an initial step forward in this movement, my vanity plate will say:

ANUSTART
posted by resurrexit at 2:43 PM on June 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


"But the savings to the state could be significant. It's estimated the state loses $150 million a year because of drivers who drive with expired tags or without insurance"
Where do I go in the event of a malfunction? The DMV? The mechanic? I'm sure maintaining these won't cost the state a lot of money since government is known for always leveraging its size and influence to get the best rates on things.

You forgot: IF THIS VAN'S A'ROCKIN'...

ASS, GAS, OR GRASS. NO ONE RIDES FOR FREE.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:44 PM on June 11, 2013


My car was stolen last year, it was recovered by a parking enforcement vehicle with ALPR cameras. Most of the parking enforcement vehicles in DC have them.

One of the DC airports, sorry I can't remember which, has deployed ALPR cameras for their police/security force. They drive through the parking garages and build a real-time map of what cars are where. It's useful when travelers forget where they left their car.
posted by peeedro at 2:46 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


For all the people who think this is dumb. IT IS NOT. Some politico, realative or friend thereof will "earn" a tidy sum from this venture.

But. How does that undumben it? If anything this increases the dumb by adding the usual healthy measure of baksheesh.
posted by elizardbits at 2:46 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


In fact, now that I think of it, all proposals of this sort should be accompanied by a mandatory quarter-billion dollar bond. In the event the proposed system is deployed, and is subsequently exploited by any third-party (whether the exploit be theoretical or "in the wild") then that bond is sacrificed and the payout goes into the state general fund with 10% going to whomever discovered the exploit.
posted by aramaic at 2:47 PM on June 11, 2013


Undumbenably.
posted by Kabanos at 2:48 PM on June 11, 2013


So then, instead of having inmates stamping plates in US prisons, they can send felons directly to a Foxconn plant to do their time.
posted by Kabanos at 2:48 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Flashing plates sound distracting, and the whole thing sounds expensive. But there's probably some way this would make states able to fire some of the workers who currently run license plate checks, so it'll probably take off.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:51 PM on June 11, 2013


Gee, there's certainly no kickback scheme here at all. Nope, no reason to dig into the extra cost and infrastructure to support such an inane scheme at all.
posted by odinsdream at 2:54 PM on June 11, 2013


Screw the licence plates, how long until we get e-ink cash points? Most machines are unreadable in even moderate sunlight, or, if they're more than a year old, unreadable.

Also, colour printing like that would look great on my next kindle...
posted by welovelife at 2:58 PM on June 11, 2013


The most important thing to get worked out is that it would have to be physically impossible for an innocent car to get marked STOLEN or AMBER ALERT. I could see this going wrong so many ways.

That's not going to happen. It's not perfectly analogous, but there was an incident a few years ago at my workplace where a stray click (or two) on an admin console somewhere triggered the self-erase function of the personal smartphones of hundreds of my coworkers (allowing remote self-erase was one of the conditions required to access company email). I can easily imagine similar stray click errors happening with a system like this, even if safeguards are implemented.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 3:01 PM on June 11, 2013


Charlie:

And you think forcing people to retake the driver's exam is a bad thing? ... Of course there are ways to address your other issues, like limiting the number of tags you can hand out, sort of an antispam protection.

If it's done by a popularity vote, absolutely it's a bad thing. Even with "antispam" countermeasures you still can't prevent griefers griefing. As an example, I went to a high school with 1400 students in 2 grades and most of those people drove. If a group of students made it their mission to make a particular kid's life hell they could force that kid to re-take the driver's exam every two weeks all year long without running out of unique votes.

Plus let's not forget about all of the stories we hear about cars being vandalized for displaying offensive items like political stickers and Darwin fish decals. I'm sure plenty of right wing 'good Christians' would see it as their personal calling to "downvote" people like that off the road.
posted by barc0001 at 3:02 PM on June 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


How are these plates powered?

The FA says a combination of solar and vibration energy harvesting. (Probably just for the sexiness; energy harvesting is vaguely trendy.)
posted by hattifattener at 3:06 PM on June 11, 2013


What stops someone from stealing someone else's tag? There is no way that I know of to tie a license plate to a particular vehicle other that the RFID systems that exist in some newer model cars, and good luck trying to get vehicle OEM's to just hand over that information to the state.
posted by dudemanlives at 3:08 PM on June 11, 2013


Nothing. Of course nothing stops someone from stealing tags now.

Yeah but they could accomplish the same thing with a text message alert to your phone.

Hard to believe but not everyone driving a car has a phone (let alone one with texting enabled) where as everyone driving a car has a licence plate attached to that car. Also fleet vehicles which suffer from all the same problems plus a layer or two of bureaucracy don't have a driver:phone relationship.
posted by Mitheral at 3:20 PM on June 11, 2013


I'd rather equip all cars with a turret-mounted paintball gun and use that to tag the vehicles who are annoying.

THIS. THIS RIGHT HERE. I WANT THIS. I HAVE WANTED THIS FOR TWENTY YEARS.
posted by soundguy99 at 3:36 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nothing. Of course nothing stops someone from stealing tags now.

Right. So, if the whole purpose is to identify people who break the law, yet there is a simple way to evade detection which involves only a little more law-breaking, does not the whole exercise become futile.
posted by dudemanlives at 3:39 PM on June 11, 2013


Switch to Electronic License Plates Could Improve SC Highway Safety

pffft...I have no doubt that highway safety is the last thing that SC is looking to improve. Lines like that are on the same BS level as Lotteries paying for education. There may be a marginal effect, but the real reason is another way for the state to stick their hand in your wallet.

I suppose this is a good a time as any to insert the Obligatory-Nikki Haley-Is-An-Asshole-Whether-She-Has-Anything-To-Do-With-This-Or-Not line just for good measure.
posted by lampshade at 3:45 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


"It's the first of its kind," says David Findlay, co-founder of Compliance Innovations, the South Carolina company that created the e-tags.
Compliance Innovations. I've just been sitting here for several minutes contemplating this name. Is compliance really an area in which we need innovation? The various forms of the word 'comply' make me feel dirtier than any other words.
posted by brianconn at 3:48 PM on June 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


The blink tag. Coming to a highway near you!
posted by srboisvert at 3:56 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mister_A wrote: I thought it was funny how the word STOLEN was slapped across the Native American (commemorative?) plate in one of the pictures in TFA.

No, that's just what an Oklahoma (state, some of the tribes issue their own plates) license plate issued in the last 10 years looks like. A lot of people here aren't sure whether the figure depicted is supposed to be a samurai warrior or a native american in traditional dress.
posted by wierdo at 3:58 PM on June 11, 2013


"Compliance Innovations. I've just been sitting here for several minutes contemplating this name. Is compliance really an area in which we need innovation? The various forms of the word 'comply' make me feel dirtier than any other words."

Compliance to innovation is pretty much the motto of the 21st century. Everything must change, whether you like it or not.

I really wonder how these plates would perform in low light conditions.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:01 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


dudemanlives wrote: What stops someone from stealing someone else's tag? There is no way that I know of to tie a license plate to a particular vehicle other that the RFID systems that exist in some newer model cars, and good luck trying to get vehicle OEM's to just hand over that information to the state.

If nothing else, your TPMS sensors have unique IDs, assuming you have a somewhat modern car.

Also, I'm not sure where people get the idea that there will be blinding light coming from these things, assuming they ever make it into production (hopefully not)? These use e-ink, not a backlit display. It couldn't be any worse than present plates, which are quite reflective. It's still a solution in search of a problem, though.

It is pretty common for people to have their registration year stickers stolen around here. Would be nice to not have any more of that...
posted by wierdo at 4:05 PM on June 11, 2013


Hard to believe but not everyone driving a car has a phone (let alone one with texting enabled) where as everyone driving a car has a licence plate attached to that car.

Apparently you have not been to California.

(What is it with cars without license plates there? More cars than other places I've been so you just see more plate-less cars? Or is it a thing? Anyway, a surprising number of vehicles are missing one or both plates, and I'm pretty sure you need a both in California.)
posted by hoyland at 4:10 PM on June 11, 2013


It takes a long time to get new plates in CA, 4-6 weeks for regular plates and longer still for personalized or commemorative plates (mine took so long to arrive that my temporary paper window tag faded from red to palest pink). Unlike some states, CA plates are issued via mail rather than being stocked under the counter at the local DMV branch. As far as just one plate, I'm sure some of that is drivers who don't want the (mandatory) front plate but newly issued plates are so thin and sort of stick together right out of the envelope that they are easily confused for and installed as one plate.
posted by jamaro at 4:28 PM on June 11, 2013


(mine took so long to arrive that my temporary paper window tag faded from red to palest pink)

To be clear, I'd look for the temporary paper plate when there was no back plate.
posted by hoyland at 4:31 PM on June 11, 2013


In a time when nonessential government costs should be reduced – and when federal dollars doled out to states are dropping every year – the best thing I can think of for states to be doing is wasting money on completely useless crap like this that does absolutely nothing that cops can't do now by punching a few digits into their computers. So congratulations again, South Carolina. You are brilliant.
posted by koeselitz at 4:40 PM on June 11, 2013


This reminds me of George Carlin's bit from Carlin on Campus:

"Wouldn't it be nice to have an electric board that would rise up out of the trunk of your car and let you type in any message you like? 'Attention asshole! You drive like old people fuck. Slow and sloppy.'"
posted by not_on_display at 4:53 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh boy. Can we use it to identify sex offenders? Because I'd sure hate to share highway with one of them.
posted by sourwookie at 4:56 PM on June 11, 2013


All I can think of is this, crossed with like, fucking SKYNET.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:03 PM on June 11, 2013


Of course nothing stops someone from stealing tags now.

The sticker tags? You take an X-acto and make criss-cross slices over it so if someone tries to peel it off they just get a tiny corner or edge. I've been doing this almost as long as I've been driving, and the one time my tags were stolen was the one year I forgot to do it.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:15 PM on June 11, 2013


A lot of people here aren't sure whether the figure depicted is supposed to be a samurai warrior or a native american in traditional dress.


I tell you what, Toyotomi Hideyoshi was absolutely beside himself when Tokugawa forces drove him out of Oda Nobunaga's traditional han near Tulsa.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:40 PM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


The sticker tags? You take an X-acto and make criss-cross slices over it so if someone tries to peel it off they just get a tiny corner or edge. I've been doing this almost as long as I've been driving, and the one time my tags were stolen was the one year I forgot to do it.

They actually come that way in Missouri.
posted by sourwookie at 5:48 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd like for the license plate to read I'M A DOUCHE on every vehicle sporting "truck nutz," but that would be redundant.
posted by 4ster at 7:37 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am certain that the only reason this has come out about SC plates is that some amazing state legislator has a very clear/vested interest in this company.

I am certain.

SC isn't a big proponent of "the tech" unless it aids the good ole' boys.
posted by Kronur at 8:07 PM on June 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf: “Their approach to this is all backwards. As much as I hate social media, in this application it could work. Give drivers a way to tag other drivers' plates, sort of like Yelp reviews on other drivers. So after some idiot get tagged 10 times for bad driving, their plate says BAD DRIVER. If he gets 20, he has to go to the DMV and retake the driving test.”
Only if when they ever catch you trolling innocent people—using the mandatory reporting of OBDII data, of course—you get banned from driving for ten years.
posted by ob1quixote at 8:18 PM on June 11, 2013


Apparently the plates in the article were stolen from the Jackson 5.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:32 PM on June 11, 2013


I'm sitting here scratching my head over how the STOLEN tag would be useful in the first place. Two hex bolts and that plate is going to be down a sewer grate or in the dumpster behind Arby's anyway, right?
posted by OHSnap at 1:20 AM on June 12, 2013


OHSnap: "I'm sitting here scratching my head over how the STOLEN tag would be useful in the first place. Two hex bolts and that plate is going to be down a sewer grate or in the dumpster behind Arby's anyway, right?"

Then you have to deal with getting bagged for missing plates.
posted by Samizdata at 2:00 AM on June 12, 2013


That's when the hypothetical criminal steals the plate from another car. You can buy security screws for your license plates. There are a wide variety available.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:23 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The real reason, by the way, that this is a dumb idea is that we're not that far away from local police stations being able to buy a camera with good enough OCR and image processing in it to read the plates on every car that they drive behind or past.

This is already standard practice in the UK. Traffic cops are automatically notified if a passing car has no insurance or MOT (annual safety check certificate) or is stolen or whatever.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:49 AM on June 12, 2013


I was going to say that this is the result of lobbying on behalf of some e-paper license plate company. I couldn't have guessed they'd be called Compliance Innovations Jebus.

It also seems like these plates would be super-easy to forge. All you would need would be a piece of E-paper and fake frame. You could even grab a plate off some other vehicle, remove the electronics entirely (why bother with hacking?), and replace them with your own e-paper driver. You'd be able to change your plates to whatever you want.

And for some reason I'm going to guess that compliance innovations isn't good at writing secure software.
Because people who have had their cars stolen want them back?
Then they can get a GPS tracker? I mean, do you really think car thieves won't figure out a way to remove a license plate?
Okay. What if the person driving the car isn't the person who registered it, and the person who is driving has a perfectly legitimate license? I borrow other people's cars all the time. My car is in fact registered in my partner's name.
Yeah, and if your license is suspended why wouldn't you lend your car to other people? It's not like it would be doing you any good.
Of course the effective use of QR codes or RFID codes by the police would be to see if the car is registered in a poor or minority neighborhood so that they can find an excuse to pull the driver over and hassle them. It's shit.
They can do that with regular license pates. Also, they can just look at them, you know, through the windows. (Or pull them over for too much tint)
How are these plates powered? Will the car owner need to rig a wire to their car's electrical system? Or are they battery powered? If so, what happens when the battery dies?
E-paper doesn't need power if it doesn't change. These things could easily be powered by the solar panels on old calculators
posted by delmoi at 4:54 AM on June 12, 2013


Allow other drivers to "favorite" you! Hey it's not an upvote!

The fun starts when the mods/cops get to base deletions of drivers on how many "breaks the guidelines" flags they acquire.
posted by spitbull at 4:58 AM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's when the hypothetical criminal steals the plate from another car.

Though most are stupid and steal one from a different make and model. Nothing makes you stand up more than when the cop sees "OK, 123 XYZ, Blue Honda Civic, no violations -- other than being a white Chevy pickup truck."
posted by eriko at 5:00 AM on June 12, 2013


Is e-paper visibly different from paper paper? It doesn't actually transmit any data, except visually by the image it shows, right? What's to stop anyone from photocopying a plate and putting that on their car?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:32 AM on June 12, 2013


"Compliance Innovations" sounds like a subsidiary of OCP from Robocop.
posted by Foolhardy at 12:02 PM on June 12, 2013


Spitbull, there is no one correct reason to favorite other drivers. For example, I favorite drivers which I want to come back to and tailgate later.
posted by hattifattener at 1:00 PM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


hattifattener: "Spitbull, there is no one correct reason to favorite other drivers. For example, I favorite drivers which I want to come back to and tailgate later."

Well, I only favorite drivers that favorite me first.

And I want it to be able to say "NO U'RE WRONG" when I want it to.

(Seriously, I do reciprocal contacts, but favorites are a case by case basis for me, as well as a tool to track threads I need to keep an eye on. I figure if I was favorited I was doing SOMETHING right in there, so I should keep up the hard work.)
posted by Samizdata at 2:54 PM on June 12, 2013


Kirth Gerson: "What's to stop anyone from photocopying a plate and putting that on their car?"

Same thing that stops them from doing this now. After all a licence plate is just an embossed and painted slab of metal that anyone could turn out in their kitchen with varying degrees of accuracy.
posted by Mitheral at 7:48 PM on June 12, 2013


In my state they aren't even embossed any more.
posted by hattifattener at 10:26 PM on June 12, 2013


If you have a photocopier that prints onto and embosses metal, I will be very surprised. A cop looking at a paper image of an embossed metal plate is not going to be fooled at anything like close range - or at any range at night, if the legitimate plate is reflective.

My real point, though, is that if e-paper is not easily distinguishable from paper, the car owner could attach a photocopy of the good plate, and any messages displayed by that real plate would be useless.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:13 AM on June 13, 2013


Same here hattifattener. They did think to include a holographic overlay, though, thus making them reasonably difficult to replicate. It still looks cheap...
posted by wierdo at 3:27 PM on June 13, 2013


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