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Digital License Plates Debut in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO -- One of the new Chevrolet Volt electric cars pulled up to City Hall, outfitted with a digital license plate.

Sacramento is the first city in the country to test the technology on city vehicles.

The city is taking part in a pilot program the California Department of Motor Vehicles is running with the license plate maker Reviver Auto. The city plans to test the plates on the 35 new Chevy Volt electric cars that will be added to the city fleet.

The digital plates are Wi-Fi-based, allowing users to opt-in, or out, of having their location tracked. The City of Sacramento says they will be able to track vehicle movement and mileage and use the plates to display public service announcements.

"To display Amber Alerts, or indicate that a driver needs help, or that a car is stolen," said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

As for any technology in the digital age, there are always questions related to who has access to the data and what they will do with it.

Reviver Auto says data is all stored "in the cloud" and the company keeps a constant eye on their systems to ensure client data stays protected.

The company also says the data will not be handed off to a third party, including law enforcement officials.

Though the plates may become trendy tech they’re more of an investment than a whim, costing $700 for the plate and a $7.97 per month maintenance fee on top of DMV registration fees. The city is getting fleet pricing at $300 per plate and a $20 per month maintenance fee paid out of the general fund.

"These are modest amounts of money and I have a bigger motive here," Steinberg said. "And that is I want to continue to send the signal that Sacramento should be the center of all these technologies."

The plates are also available to the public to test. Kuni Chevrolet is the only retailer in the region selling the new tech. The CEO says they’ve already sold a handful of digital plates since they launched last week.