California Might Turn License Plates into Mini Billboards

By taking it easy on the gas pedal and brakes, hypermilers achieve gas mileage feats far beyond the fuel economy ratings given to cars by the Environmental Protection Agency. They coast to stop signs, accelerate slowly, and sometimes raise the ire of other drivers. (Image credit: stock.xchng)

A new proposed bill in California would put digital advertisements on vehicle license plates to help pull the cash-strapped state out of dept.

Sen. Curren Price, D – Los Angeles, has proposed legislation that will make it possible for the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to research digital license plates. Those digital plates would run advertisements, with revenue going back to the state government.

"The Department of Motor Vehicles, by virtue of its interaction with millions of California drivers and vehicle owners each year, represents a valuable resource to the state," the bill reads. "The department may consider the use and development of existing or emerging technologies for the creation of a digital electronic license plate for the purpose of generating revenue for the department and state."

While perhaps far-fetched, the idea could help California dig itself out of its current $19 billion deficit.

The bill goes on to explain that the DMV will be able to contract private manufacturers to research the idea and make the plates. If all goes well, the DMV would eventually be open to ad submissions from local and national advertisers.

The ads would only be visible while a car is stopped. When in motion, only a vehicle's license plate number will be shown. This serves to limit distractions while driving and allow people to identify license plates easily if necessary.

The bill is not complete yet. Legislators are required to submit, by January 2011, further explanations of how the license plate legislation would work. A list detailing upcoming clarifications indicates that the digital license plates will allow car owners to customize a message for their plates, too. While the DMV will likely retain final say over what can and cannot be displayed, this opens up a possibility of revenue from plate customization as well.

On top of creating ad revenue, the bill also states that digital license plates could save the state money by streamlining the registration and licensing process.