Digital License Plates Are The Camel's Nose Under the Tent
While the digital license plate sounds cool, it is merely the start of a move toward higher taxes, more regulation, and reduced privacy.
It’s one of those stories that just sounds like it’s a really cool marriage of convenience and technology:
Say goodbye to that rusty piece of metal. California drivers will now be able to get digital license plates under a new law.
The Golden State had previously been piloting alternatives to traditional license plates, but a law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom late last month extends the option to all drivers.
The license plate-sized screens display a driver's license plate number and allow motorists to renew their registration automatically. Users can even change between light and dark modes and customize the plates with personalized banners.
California Assemblymember Lori Wilson, who sponsored the legislation, said it will make life easier for drivers.
"It is a product of convenience and I'm all about giving people choice here in the state of California," Wilson said, according to ABC30 Fresno.
So yeah, it sounds like a great gig. Customers can get cool-looking license plates, don’t have to worry about putting stickers on their cars, and can switch between different modes to make it more visible. Win-win, right?
Well, when Assemblywoman Wilson called it “a product of convenience” what she really meant was for the State of California:
The company's so-called RPlate can be equipped with GPS and allows users, including employers, to track a vehicle's location and mileage.
You mean, a license plate that allows people granted specific access to the GPS functionality will be able to track the car and its occupants? Like, say a police officer executing a warrant? Or perhaps…..a California DMV official who is required to collect a tax on that car?
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed legislation Friday expanding a pilot program that charges drivers a fee based on the number of miles they drive instead of a gasoline tax.
Oregon and Utah launched similar pilot programs in 2015 and 2020, respectively, that yielded mixed results. Few people volunteered for the programs initially because of privacy and equity concerns, but the states have since seen more participation after addressing some of those problems.
Federal and state gasoline taxes fund road construction and repair and have been consistently declining. Drivers increasingly are turning to more hybrid, electric and fuel-efficient cars…
…“This extension is a crucial step and will help better equip the state with the necessary information regarding the potential for a road charge system to replace the gas tax to fund transportation infrastructure and maintenance,” state Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, who sponsored the bill.
“We need to plan for a future without gasoline consumption, and we also need to increase our funding for transportation infrastructure,” Wiener said in a statement emailed to Stateline.
The current voluntary plan in California requires that participants either track their miles using their odometer or place a special GPS device on their vehicle. The installation of the GPS device on a vehicle would be much easier if the GPS tracking device were integrated directly into the license plate the vehicle is required to carry.
The steps of this process are obvious to anybody who is paying attention:
State implements voluntary mileage tax program: ✅
State implements digital license plate program: ✅
State mandates digital license plates:
State mandates mileage tax.
The flowchart here is obvious, and California is already on the second step. In California Governor Gavin Newsom’s dystopian vision of making California even more dysfunctional than it currently is, part of his vision to ban the sale of internal combustion engines by 2035. Considering that what starts in California seems to move on to other states, this is a serious concern for anybody driving a car in North America.
While the digital license plate sounds cool, it is merely the nose under the camel’s tent in a move toward higher taxes, more regulation, and reduced privacy.