Digital license plates could be coming to Maryland.
Twenty Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration vehicles and two Maryland Transportation Authority vehicles will be outfitted with license plate-sized, LTE-connected, electronic displays from the Silicon Valley-based tech firm Reviver under a two-year pilot program, the first on the East Coast, officials announced Tuesday.
Marylanders whose paperwork is not up to date with the Motor Vehicle Administration will be required to submit additional documents by Oct. 1, 2020, to use their driver's licenses — even the new, state flag ones — for purposes such as boarding an airplane or entering a federal facility.
If the program extends beyond the test phase, the digital plates — currently legal only in Arizona, California and Michigan — eventually could replace the current sticker-based system of vehicle registration renewals by automatically updating digital decals. The digital plates also could be updated to display, for example, prominent messages such as “STOLEN” or “EXPIRED,” said MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer.
“We’re just really starting out, trying to see, operationally, does it make sense?” Nizer said. “We think it has a lot of great applications. We have to play with the technology and see how it works out.”
Each year, the MVA spends an average of nearly $500,000 to order and mail registration stickers to Maryland drivers. The stickers are valid for two years.
“They’re around 20 cents or 18 cents a sticker,” Nizer said. “Half our customers are getting stickers every year.”
Operators of commercial vehicle fleets are an initial target market for the technology, Nizer said, due to its ability to notify them when a vehicle’s registration expires and GPS locators to help find the car, truck or bus in a crowded lot. The state does not plan to track the plates’ locations, she said.
If they are more widely adopted, digital plates are a way of “potentially making the registration renewal process more efficient and time-saving,” Nizer said.
“We are excited about the digital plate pilot and the potential of this technology to pave the way for additional customer convenience,” she said.
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Rplates, as Reviver calls them, sell for $349 plus $2.99 per month or $499 plus $6.99 per month, depending on the features. The company pitched the pilot program to Maryland transportation officials and is providing the state with the initial 22 Rplates for free.
Neville Boston, Reviver’s co-founder and chief strategy officer, said the pilot program highlights “Maryland’s progressive approach to simplifying the registration process.”
“We look forward to partnering with the state to leverage the vast potential digital license plates offer for future innovation,” Boston said in a statement.
AAA Mid-Atlantic, which represents nearly a million Maryland drivers, supports the MVA’s efforts to find new ways of making the registration renewal process easier and the roads safer, said spokeswoman Ragina C. Ali. The auto club has lingering questions, though, about driver privacy that will need to be answered if the digital license plate program expands or becomes permanent, she added.
“We applaud [the Maryland Department of Transportation] for their proactive nature in evaluating and reviewing new technologies that could benefit drivers and law enforcement,” Ali said. “But, as with any emerging technology, we’ll be very interested in learning the findings of the pilot program and what that will mean moving forward.”