Calif. Examines Ad-Supported Digital License Plates

It seems impossible to escape advertising, and California, looking for any possible way to close its budget gap, may make it still more difficult.

The state is considering electronic license plates. The reason for the digital-age change, though, is strictly monetary: advertising.

The plates would appear to be standard license plates when the vehicle is moving, but when the vehicle is stopped for more than four seconds, either in traffic or at a stop light, would switch to digital messages. The number wouldn't vanish completely; it would still be visible in the corner of the plate.

In emergencies, the license plates could be used to broadcast Amber Alerts, traffic information, or emergency instructions. The plates would use technology being developed by a 3-person San Francisco start-up, Smart Plate.

SB 1453 has passed the state Senate and is now before the Assembly. If it becomes law, and is adopted on a wide scale, the author, State Sen. Curren Price, D-Inglewood, said California would be the first state to embrace such technology.