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Get ready for electronic license plates

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 11th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Get ready for electronic license plates. The state of South Carolina is the first to consider a proposal to switch from metal license plates to electronic plates, or to e-tags as they are called, as a way to improve highway safety.

COLUMBIA, SC (Catholic Online) - The license plates are "the first of their kind" in the words of David Findlay, founder of compliance innovations, the South Carolina-based company that created the e-tags.

"It's not an LCD or an LED. 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. The only time it needs power is when you're changing the status or the image on the plate."

That power, according to Findlay, can come just from the vibration of the car, or from a transparent film over the plate that collects solar power.

Findlay and others believe the new plates will improve highway safety because they are electronically linked to the DMV. If the drivers car is stolen, they can be updated to display the word "STOLEN" or any other word that's relevant such as, "SUSPENDED" or "UNINSURED".

The plates would also be useful during Amber alerts.

Brian Bannister, co-founder of the company says they can display the words any place they like on the plate. They can even make the plate flash.

"We actually put that wording on the license plate across the top and, depending on how the state wants it, it could be in bright red, and we can actually flash the plate, have it flashing as it goes down the road," said Bannister.

For those with privacy concerns, the developers say the plates do not report your location to the DMV. "No one entity could actually track an individual vehicle," Bannister said. In order to track the vehicle using the plate, the new law would require three court orders, once the DMV, one to the plates manufacturer, and one to cellular carriers to help locate the vehicle.

However the new plates aren't cheap. Right now, the cost to manufacture each one exceeds $100. A traditional plate costs anywhere between $3-$7 to make. Still, the company believes they can bring the cost under $100. They also believe the state will save money overall because South Carolina loses an estimated $150 million a year because of drivers who have expired tags or on the road without insurance.

By increasing the number of insured drivers, it is hoped that insurance rates in the state could come down.

It's also hoped that the plates will increase safety by alerting police and motorists in special circumstances.

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