Security Technology News - June 2013

Electronic License Plates Could Improve Highway Safety

Posted by Victoria Knowles - Security Technology News Reporter on 12/06/2013 - 11:10:00

Electronic Paper Technology in License Plate Application

Switching to new electronic license plates, or e-tags, from the conventional metal variety could improve highway safety.

South Carolina is currently considering the proposal, which is still in the early stages.

Compliance Innovations co-founder David Findlay, said the product was the first of its type. His South Carolina-based company produced the e-tags.

He said it is not an LED or LCD. "What it's made of is electronic paper. It's a new technology that allows you to hold the image with no power whatsoever for over 10 years," he said, adding that the only instance it requires power for is changing the image or status on the plate.

This power is obtained from your car's vibrations, and from the tag's exterior transparent film that harvests solar power.

Electronic Paper Technology in License Plate Application

But why should these e-tags improve highway safety? The answer is because they are electronically connected to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), so if a driver's insurance has expired or their license suspended, the DMV would direct a signal to the offender's plate. The word "UNINSURED" or "SUSPENDED" would unabashedly appear on the license plate.

Even better, if your car has been stolen, the DMV could write the tag "STOLEN". The state could also utilize the tags during emergencies such as amber alerts.

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Company co-founder Brian Bannister said these words, depending on the state's preferences, could be flashing or in bright red.

While it might seem impressive that the DMV could remotely change the wording on a particular license plate, the agency is not able to track the actual vehicle.

At this stage, the firm proposes that the e-tags be used as a pilot program by the state, initially using only state-owned vehicles. There are still creases to be ironed out in the process, such as cutting down the size of the e-tag prototypes so that they conform to the size of existing license plates, along with reducing production costs. This is quite a big hurdle, considering that conventional metal plates cost around $3 to $7 to produce, and Findlay hopes his firm will be able to cut the e-tag manufacturing cost to less than $100.

However - Bannister and Findlay says if uninsured drivers on the road are reduced as a result of the state converting to e-tags, insurance firms might lower their prices.

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