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CALIFORNIA'S DIGITAL LICENSE PLATES: THE APPLE EFFECT?

How do you sell expensive electronic license plates that can track your every move to a skeptical public?

NEVILLE BOSTON, CEO & COFOUNDER of REVIVER AUTO

NEVILLE BOSTON, CEO, REVIVER AUTO :: Photo by © Martin Klimek

Simple, use Apple’s formula for marketing ho-hum technology in clever packaging. Hence we see California testing a new license plate that will be sold at prestige dealerships for approximately $699 (without installation costs) and a fee of about $84 per year. The must have car bling of the moment.

Sleek and stylish …

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But, do you really want a product that is little more than a Kindle e-reader on the back of your car? One that can electronically track your movements – and possibly used by the government to place you at or near the scene of a crime as a reluctant witness? And, of course, like all official records, your tracking information is not protected by law – and can be easily obtained by government officials and anyone willing to bring a court case – think a spousal complaint during a divorce.

Known as the R-plate, the electronic plates are manufactured by Reviver Auto, based in Foster City, California and will be part of an “exclusive” 175,000 plates authorized by the California DMV as a test of the technology.

Other than its trackability – hackability might be an additional concern, with thieves being able to change plates in microseconds.

While the R-plate may have value for fleet operations, the functionality is duplicated by today’s GPS-enabled systems such as those already used by Uber and other car services. For those who suggest that the plate can be used for displaying ads, but, of course only when the vehicle is stopped, one can imagine an increase in rear end collisions or an increase in driver inattention as they think about the ad content being displayed.

And what would any electronic device be without a corresponding smartphone app?

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Or multiple price points …

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Bottom line …

ca-scam

Another silli product from silicon valley where novelty often trumps functionality. However, there is one good thing about imagining an electronic plate in your future. Imagining the elimination of the DMV – to be replaced by Amazon and its Kindle style plates.

In an era when we have real problems that can be solved with technology, the R-Plate and its look-alikes are all products with a difference, but without a distinction.  If this catches on, I wonder what the investors will do if automakers simply incorporate the technology as part of their vehicle build (economies of scale, dealer registration, etc.) and simply program your plate at point of purchase with no fuss and no muss?

We are so screwed.

-- steve


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