Maryland gives new digital license plate technology a test drive
GLEN BURNIE — The Maryland Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Administration launched a two-year pilot program, Tuesday, June 18, to test new digital license plate technology.
The new plates, which are similar in size to conventional metal plates, are being tested on 20 MVA fleet vehicles and two Maryland Transportation Authority vehicles.
With a Kindle-like electronic display that can be updated remotely, the plates’ new digital design has the potential to eliminate a lot of the leg work that goes into car registration in Maryland.
Tasks like manually updating registration stickers and waiting in long lines at the local MVA will be distant memories for those who opt to purchase and use the plates, MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer said.
Nizer said the new plates aren’t just for convenience’s sake, though. They also have the potential to increase the safety of Maryland residents.
Their electronic screens are able to display real-time notifications, like if the car is stolen, Amber Alerts and other safety information.
“If a vehicle is stolen, there’s nothing physical that shows on the standard plate that we have now,” Nizer said. “With a digital license plate, we could actually have the word ‘stolen’ appear on that plate, and that would notify individuals who saw the vehicle that it’s stolen and it should be reported to law enforcement.”
Nizer said the MVA hopes the technology would deter car theft and help law enforcement return stolen cars to victims sooner.
The plates, called the Rplate, are made by digital plate manufacturer Reviver, based out of San Francisco. Reviver currently sells the plates starting at $349 for the Rplate Essential and $499 for the Rplate Pro.
According to Reviver’s website, the Pro offers additional features, like location alerts, as well as trip and mileage tracking. The plates both require a monthly service plan, at $2.99 and $6.99, respectively.
Neville Boston, Reviver’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said his company is “very pleased to work with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to help make Maryland one of the first states in the Northeast to pilot digital license plates.”
Boston also highlighted Maryland’s “progressive approach to simplifying the registration process,” saying the digital plates offer “vast potential ... for future innovation.”
If the MVA decides to offer the plates, Nizer said they will be an optional upgrade, just like the Bay plates and other license plate customizations.
The MVA is “always looking for ways to increase convenience” for drivers in the state, Nizer said, and employing new technologies is one way to do that.
As of now, Nizer said the pros of implementing the digital license plates outweigh the cons. But she said there still are some kinks that need to be worked out with the technology — like readability and durability.
“The key feature for the plate is readability, for regular citizens and law enforcement,” Nizer said. “But we also want to make sure the automatic license plate readers, like red light cameras and speed cameras, can read these plates.”
From a durability standpoint, she said, the digital plate is “like having a tablet bolted onto a car.”
So it’s important that before authorizing the use of the plates, the MVA determines “they’re durable and they hold up the same as the current plates we have,” Nizer said.
Maryland is one of four states in the country — and one of the first on the East Coast — to test or legalize the electronic plates.
The plates are not yet legal in Maryland, but drivers in California, Michigan and Arizona are permitted to use them in place of traditional plates.
The trial came at no cost to the state, Nizer said. And if the pilot program goes well, the MVA will develop a plan for implementing the new technology.
For more information about the digital license plates, visit www.mva.maryland.gov or www.reviver.com
By CANDICE SPECTOR firstname.lastname@example.org