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A California License Plate With Electronic Ads?

By Jason Beahm | Last updated on

Desperate times call for desperate advertising. In light of a $19 billion deficit, the California Senate is considering creating digital license plates and selling advertising space on the plates. Sen. Curren Price, a Democrat from the Los Angeles area, sponsored Senate Bill 1453 which would authorize the development and evaluation of a digital electronic license plates. The bill passed the California Senate by unanimous vote. It heads to the California Assembly's Transportation Committee next week.

The bill would authorize the department to contract with a private vendor for the purposes of researching, reporting, developing, acquiring, and exploring digital electronic license plates. The bill would require a report on the prospect of the program by 2013.

A San Francisco based startup, Smart Plate, is in the process of trying to develop such a plate. Those who wish to adverise on plates would eventually be able to contact the California DMV directly. The advertisements would only appear once the vehicle had been idle for four seconds. The plates could display public services announcements, Amber Alerts and paid advertisements.

Price believes the plates would be a fantastic way to raise additional funds for California.  "State governments are facing unprecedented budget shortfalls, and are actively rethinking the use of existing state assets to create new ongoing revenue opportunities," he said to CNNMoney. "This is a unique opportunity for public-private partnership."

However, legal challenges seem likely if a bill implementing the plates is ever passed. It is illegal to drive without a license plate. Therefore, anyone California resident that wanted to drive a car would be forced to have advertisements on their vehicle. This would be additionaly troubling if drivers' vehicles advertised companies or causes who they were opposed to. 

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