Digital license plates now available in the Bay Area

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- Waiting to get your set of vehicle registration tabs in the mail can be stressful, but in California, a new pilot program aims to change that. Digital license plates are growing in popularity across the state, and many people say it's the wave of the future.

"Every time in the Bay Area there's a new technology, everybody wants to jump up on it," said Tesh Maharaj, sales manager at SS Customs in Redwood City.

RELATED: California rolls out digital license plate pilot program

Local retailers, such as SS Customs, say more people are asking for the R-plate. It's a digital license plate that can do more than just display the large letters and numbers that you'd typically see on a vehicle.

Using similar technology behind Amazon's Kindle e-book reader system, customers can display notices like an Amber Alert, pay tolls, and report their vehicle as stolen. But the novelty comes with a hefty price at nearly $700 a plate, not including activation and installation.

Reviver Auto, the Foster City-based company behind the product, says the R-plate can also display advertisements while parked. The vehicle can also be tracked, which is a benefit for business owners who want to incorporate the plates into their fleet. As for privacy concerns, Reviver Auto says the company does not share data with the DMV, law enforcement or any third party.

The pilot program dates back to 2013, when Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation allowing the DMV to look at alternatives to issuing stickers, tabs, license plates, and registration cards.

Reviver Auto was the only company to bid on the program, which wasn't all that surprising to Silicon Valley cybersecurity expert Ahmed Banafa.

"It's a big market, but they're worried about privacy," said Banafa. "They're worried about security, regulation... that's another thing."

According to the DMV, nearly 1,200 digital plates have been registered in California since they were made public this summer. The plates can only be purchased at authorized auto dealerships and shops across the state.
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