The idea is contained in a bill that passed out the state Senate on May 28 and is now before the Legislature. The proposal by Democratic state Sen. Curren D. Price Jr. of Los Angeles would give the California Department of Motor Vehicles the authority to investigate the emerging "digital electronic license plate" technology.
The bill authorizes the DMV to partner with technology companies for the purpose of "researching, developing and implementing new technology." Any trials would have to be done at no cost to the state.
Following "real world" trials of DELP technology, the DMV would report back to the Legislature on potential cost saving and revenue generation.
Price said the bill, which would have to be passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenneger in order to become law, was an attempt to think outside the box to help reduce the state's $19 billion budget deficit.
"State governments are facing unprecedented budget shortfalls, and are actively rethinking the use of existing state assets to create new ongoing revenue opportunities," Price said in a statement.
To avoid being a distraction to motorists, the plates would only start showing ads after a vehicle was stopped for four seconds, such as at a red light or traffic jam, according to media reports. The vehicle's license plate number would always be in view.
Besides advertising, the plates could also be used to provide traffic and public safety information, such as Amber alerts. The latter are urgent bulletins of reported child abductions that are broadcast in partnership with law-enforcement agencies, the media and transportation agencies.
Smart Plate Technologies is one company developing electronic license plates. The San Francisco company is not yet selling the technology.