California Rolls Out Digital License Plate Pilot Program

SACRAMENTO -- License plates in Sacramento will soon go digital after the city was chosen as a test market for the new technology.

The digital license plates can display AMBER Alerts or personal messages -- think of them as changeable vanity plates.

A company called Reviver Auto is testing the plate in Sacramento. The city has purchased 24 plates for fleet vehicles. Public announcements may be used on them.

The DMV has authorized the new plates to evaluate their benefits, but some motorists are already on board.

"I think it's a great test, they should run it see how it works, I see it doing well," motorist Brandy Smith said. "I would love to have my nickname running across it."

People already pay for vanity plates, but the price tag for the digital plates is projected at $700, plus a $7 monthly fee.

"It sounds good to me but I can't afford it. If they lower the price, I probably could," motorist Marsha Lewis said.

But people already spend a lot of money to trick out their cars.

"There are some people who will pay it," motorist Saeed Rezaee said.

Rezaee says the flexibility is an attraction, even at the cost.

"They can update it, they can show off their business or what they are doing, so it's very awesome," he said.

John Esquibel has his own roof and gutter maintenance business. He was intrigued with the advertising potential until we told him the price tag.

"I don't know man, I could stand out with a sign in front of my house and get as many viewers," Esquibel said. "Maybe $250 and then seven bucks a month."

Of course, the cost of technology often comes down with time.

The plates can also be used to announce and track vehicles that are stolen, although there are already privacy concerns by those who don't want their travels to be monitored.

The plates will be available at selected auto dealerships in the Sacramento area. The DMV will keep a close eye on any problems that might crop up as well as the benefits.

It will take another year to evaluate the results of the pilot project, the DMV says, and it will be at least that long before final rules and regulations are developed on how digital license plates can be used.