It's the future!

I read a mind-numbing Associated Press article in the Mercury News earlier today. It’s not the writing, but rather the topic. It’s called, “In California, license plates might go electronic.” Yes, you read that correctly.

The California Legislature is considering a bill that would allow the state to begin researching the use of electronic license plates for vehicles. The move is intended as a moneymaker for a state facing a $19 billion deficit.

The device would mimic a standard license plate when the vehicle is in motion but would switch to digital ads or other messages when it is stopped for more than four seconds, whether in traffic or at a red light. The license plate number would remain visible at all times in some section of the screen.

When there’s money in sight, legislators seem to lose their minds…both when they have money to spend and when they see a way of getting their constituents to pay.

I can see it now…

Police officer: So let me understand. You walked past the bank while the robbery was in progress, right?

Bystander: I guess. I did see the car out front, running, with someone inside. It was double parked.

Police officer: Yes! That was the get-away car. Did you see the licence plate?

Bystander: I did, officer.

Police officer: And? What did it say?

Bystander: It said “Have it your way, at Burger King.”

Licence plates have a purpose, and it’s not advertising. Yes, there are personalized plates, and others with fewer digits to make room for logos. All of them still have clearly visible letters and numbers of the same size. They’re equally visible whether the car is moving, stationary, or even parked and not running. Current plates are cheap, durable, and highly reflective. These tarted-up plates will be lit, but have no other advantages. I won’t even get into how making them electronic will make them hackable. What could possibly go wrong?!

They may generate ad revenue for the government, but what will they do for you? Increase the cost of driving, is what. The electronic plates will be more expensive and the drivers will be the ones who pay.

What a great idea.

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