Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Government Privacy Transportation

California Legislature Approves Trial Program For Electronic Plates 185

Posted by timothy
from the but-for-bumper-stickers-it's-not-so-bad dept.
Do you worry that the widespread use of plate-scanning cameras might be used in ways that violate your privacy ? Now you can ratchet your worry level up a bit: Ars Technica reports that "This week, the California State Senate approved a bill that would create the nation’s first electronic license plate. Having already passed the state’s assembly, the bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for his signature." From the article: "The idea is that rather than have a static piece of printed metal adorned with stickers to display proper registration, the plate would be a screen that could wirelessly (likely over a mobile data network) receive updates from a central server to display that same information. In an example shown by a South Carolina vendor, messages such as 'STOLEN,' 'EXPIRED,' or something similar could also be displayed on a license plate. ... The state senator who introduced the bill, Sen. Ben Hueso, a Democrat who represents San Diego, did not respond to Ars' multiple requests for an interview or comment. It still remains unclear as to exactly why this bill was proposed and what its objectives are. The precise technical details of the program are similarly unclear, as is how long plate information would be retained and who would have access to it."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

California Legislature Approves Trial Program For Electronic Plates

Comments Filter:
  • receive updates from a central server to display that same information. In an example shown by a South Carolina vendor, messages such as 'STOLEN,' 'EXPIRED,' or something similar could also be displayed on a license plate.

    You don't think thieves would get around that by stealing other cars' license plates and swapping the plate/screen of the stolen car with other non-stolen vehicles?

    On the other hand... if the plate is controlled by the car's computer; the thief will likely have a defeat for this as

    • by horm (2802801)
      On the OTHER hand... we could have assholes running around changing legitimate plates to alert that the car is STOLEN and watching while the cops use unnecessary force on innocent people.
      • Re:A screen (Score:5, Funny)

        by durrr (1316311) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @10:43AM (#44783357)

        Don't forget the part where everyones plates show gay pornography gifs after some 14 year old hacks their system.

        • Re:A screen (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @11:53AM (#44783703) Homepage Journal

          Good point. I didn't think about the bright side of all this.

          California already has a cheaper system for identifying cars, which is the physical license plate. The California Highway Patrol (and police departments as far as I can tell) already don't car if you are driving around with expired plates (which is already very easy to distinguish) or even if you have plates at all. I see so many cars on a daily basis with nothing but a license plate frame and the dealer logo in it.

          I have no doubt that this is really just the entry point for authorities to place a GPS unit in every car.

          • by istartedi (132515)

            I see so many cars on a daily basis with nothing but a license plate frame and the dealer logo in it.

            When I first got here I drove around for six months or more like that. I even drove into Nevada. There was a small plastic pouch in the window with some documents in it, but they would have had to pull me over to read that. Nobody ever did. I wasn't trying to pull the Steve Jobs trick or anything. I asked some people how long it takes to get plates and they said, "a while, but usually not that long".

          • I have no doubt that this is really just the entry point for authorities to place a GPS unit in every car.

            Forces us to decide what we really believe and want, doesn't it?

            Our cars have been uniquely identified and trackable for generations ... but we knew that technical limitations made it impractical for everyone to be tracked all the time. We'll have to decide if the benefits of license plates are still worth the tradeoff.

        • oh well, I was worried that our ex cons have nothing to brag about anymore. See that one right there? I did those plates, the way I made the R's look just right

          • Re:A screen (Score:4, Funny)

            by Holistic Missile (976980) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @12:34PM (#44783985)

            oh well, I was worried that our ex governors have nothing to brag about anymore. See that one right there? I did those plates, the way I made the R's look just right

            Post modified for those of us here in Illinois...

            "What do you have in the Blagojevich signature series? How about Ryan? Walker? Kerner?"

        • by mysidia (191772)

          Don't forget the part where everyones plates show gay pornography gifs after some 14 year old hacks their system.

          What about when they don't get hacked; but show some Politician-You-Hate's ADs on the back of your car? Or Phillip Morris/R.J. Reynolds Tobacco ads, or other companies/products you find morally reprehensible.

          At least if someone hacks your car and displays gay porn or illegal kiddie on the back of your car; you have a hacker to press charges against, when/if they get caught.

          And you can

          • It could be something like "license plates cost $500 and require a renewal every year, but if you allow for our *cough* *cough* state approved supporters to put *cough* *cough* community messages on your license plate, then it's only $10 a year. You do support the community don't you?"

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        On the OTHER hand... we could have assholes running around changing legitimate plates to alert that the car is STOLEN

        No hacking needed. A few stickers will do the job.

        (And is a good way to protest this - get everybody to put 'STOLEN' stickers on their cars to waste police time - it's easy to claim you just came out of Walmart and somebody must have done it while you were in there. There's no way they can prove it's not true...)

        • by hedwards (940851)

          You're still responsible for driving without the necessary license plates. It's not the lack of license plates that gets you in trouble, it's the driving on public roads without an appropriate set of license plates that gets you in trouble.

          And, what's more, if you're caught doing it as part of a conspiracy, you're facing more than just the civil infraction for the license plate being obscured.

        • by mysidia (191772)

          it's easy to claim you just came out of Walmart and somebody must have done it while you were in there. There's no way they can prove it's not true..

          Except you have the legal burden of compliance. Which means you MUST verify that you have the proper license plate, before starting your car and driving onto a public roadway.

          Once you have taken those steps; you are fully responsible, for not having ensured the right plate was there, with no sticker or other illegal obstruction

    • Re:A screen (Score:5, Insightful)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @10:43AM (#44783361)

      You don't think thieves would get around that by stealing other cars' license plates and swapping the plate/screen of the stolen car with other non-stolen vehicles?

      Isn't that like stealing the PC display on which some information you want is being displayed, instead of just downloading the information into your own machine?

      • by Golddess (1361003)
        I thought the intent wasn't to get information, but to trick the system to display "STOLEN" on the wrong vehicle.
        • by mysidia (191772)

          I thought the intent wasn't to get information, but to trick the system to display "STOLEN" on the wrong vehicle.

          Exactly. Bad guy steals car A; drives off a ways; steals license plate of similar-appearing car B, and swaps.

          Drives off a few more miles; finds similar appearing car C; steals car C's plate, and swaps.

          Drives off a few more miles; finds similar appearing car D; steals car D's plate and swaps.

          By the time the owner of car A realises his/her car is gone; the thief is using car D

    • Some stuff like the radio resets when the battery is removed so will the system lose it's info when you do a battery swap?

      • by Richy_T (111409)

        There's no good reason for that these days though.

      • by mysidia (191772)

        Some stuff like the radio resets when the battery is removed so will the system lose it's info when you do a battery swap?

        Some stuff does. But if they spend the extra money for a few bytes of static RAM, or an EEPROM chip; there is no reason that it has to lose its memory.

        Of course, an alternative is that on powerup it immediately starts attempting to establish contact with the central server to upload its GPS position; report that it was just powered on, and to request what it should display.

        Un

  • with American/western parts. This is a perfect opportunity for re-building industries.
  • by nimbius (983462) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @10:42AM (#44783351) Homepage
    no stable system has been proposed, only a concept, and yet we're willing to confide in private industry to fill in the gaps? what happens if a rock hits my expensive plate? how much more will this cost than a traditional plate? whats to prevent me from reverse-engineering the plate and reducing an entire parking garage to STOLEN?

    hundreds of questions remain unanswered. legalizing the plates is one thing but unless there is more transparency in the trial program or its restricted to a small minority of state vehicles i cant see this as any sort of appropriate service to californians from their duly elected government. and given the nature of devops and software engineering in general, isnt it a bit hasty for a "trial program?" Shouldnt this proceed more like googles autonomous driver system as opposed to make;make install; plate.exe; "we're good!" or at very least throw it around the security community and see if we can break it first (im assuming it would be trivial.)
    • by mark-t (151149)

      "whats to prevent me from reverse-engineering the plate and reducing an entire parking garage to STOLEN?"

      Presumably, such a task would require access to DMV computer systems, which while certainly not impenetrable, likely have enough facilities in place to stop more than 99% of the people who would even be inclined to want to break into such facilities.

      Plus, the perp compounds their crime by hacking into a computer system without authorization... something they would necessarily have to do *BEFORE* modif

      • by pla (258480)
        Presumably, such a task would require access to DMV computer systems

        Why? Who the hell would bother hacking the server when they have physical access to the one part of the system that matters, the plate itself?


        Plus, the perp compounds their crime by hacking into a computer system without authorization

        Y'know, this point alone worries me the most. I can't think of any compelling legal argument against it, yet it sets a bad precedent about ownership and our already-thin right-to-modify/repair items
    • by dywolf (2673597)

      why even make it a plate? who needs to innovate?

      we've had electronic tolls tickers on our windshields (RFIDs) for years.
      just use those.

      no more unreadable plates. no more faded or peeling stickers.
      just point the scanner at a car to get its license and registration.

      no more visits to Hell, I mean, the DMV.
      Just renew online or over the phone.

      • by PPH (736903)

        why even make it a plate?

        Because the average bystander doesn't carry an RFID reader. And they need to record the plate numbers of people involved in accidents, hit-and-run, etc.

        The 'why' on tabs is a better question. Police plate readers can check a stolen/expired database in seconds and report back.

      • no more visits to Hell, I mean, the DMV.
        Just renew online or over the phone.

        In most states you can already renew online. I renewed my plate online last week, and all I have to do after that is put the new sticker on my plate when in arrives in the mail.

        • by dywolf (2673597) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @12:40PM (#44784035)

          I dont think my state government has even discovered the internet yet.
          the DMV office is still using TRS-80 computers in the registration section.
          and they're the newest equipment in the place.

          • by dywolf (2673597)

            no, im actually being unfair.
            they know it exists.
            it just doesnt matter because they privatized the DMV.

            so first you got the Dept of Public Safetyand sit in line for 8 hours....if they see you at all. they literally cut off the line ~9am (an hour after they open) and tell anyone past that point to go home, they got all theyll handle today. anyway, IF they see you, they ask you buncha questions, check your eyesight...take your picture...fingerprint...address...proff residence...and then give you nothing, but

            • I'm guessing by your description that the state you are talking about is Oklahoma, and yes, they have an online renewal system [ok.gov], because that's the one I used last week.

            • And yes, I agree their system for getting a drivers' license is screwed up.

              • by dywolf (2673597)

                well, again, to be fair, i wasnt getting a renewel. i was getting my intial state license and registrations (still fair new to the place).
                what ticked me off the worst was i took the day off frm work, cause i was told how bad it was...it was about 30 minutes before they were gonna close. they were just .. about .. to get to my number. they sent everyone home, said this is it for the day. so it took two of my ten sick days to get my license.

                • The DPS offices are pretty bad, and usually horribly understaffed. The one in Norman is a little shack staffed by one person. What ended up working for me was arriving at 6:30 so that I was first in line. Even then, I had to wait half an hour after they opened for their ENIAC to boot up.

  • What could go wrong with these? Invariably it will be hacked and someone will broadcast the "stolen" message to all the cards around her/him. Hopefully it'll be possible to send custom messages out to the plates.

  • Brilliant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bill Dimm (463823) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @10:43AM (#44783359) Homepage

    So, when there is a hit-and-run accident the witnesses will be telling the police to hunt for the car with license plate number "EXPIRED"?

    • Yeah on the face of it, it doesn't sound like they thought this through. Now how are automated license plate readers going to work? Is there going to be RFID like capabilities as well? What was wrong with standard plates?
    • by Nidi62 (1525137)
      You hit on another point without even realizing it: rear-end collisions. With the weights and forces involved in cars and accidents, are they even able to make an electronic display that wont shatter or malfunction if it is in a rear end collision?
      • by ATMAvatar (648864)
        No, but they can make an electronic display that brings in extra profit for the company giving the largest campaign contributions (and thus, landing the contract) when you are forced to buy a new one.
  • When it comes to money spent on mailing out renewal stickers, it seems rather obvious to me that they could also save that money by passing the cost of postage onto the drivers that want their renewal stickers mailed. One could, obviously, go into the DMV in person when renewing, and pick up renewal stickers themselves, thereby saving the money on said postage, although I imagine that the hassles of probably waiting in a long line-up are more than enough to make the cost of the drivers paying for postage

    • by Richy_T (111409)

      Saves money on the stamp but costs money for the DMV employee.

      Just allow people to go online and print out the stickers themselves. You could either purchase waterproof printing materials or they could go in the windscreen like they do in other parts of the world.

      • by mark-t (151149)

        Saves money on the stamp but costs money for the DMV employee.

        No more than it already does when they are mailing them out anyways.

  • by pla (258480)
    Clearly, California must have the single best quality roads in the entire world.

    In the Northeast US, come spring, your license plate looks like a sand-blasted salt-shaker. These no doubt fairly expensive (large LCD screen and cell enabled?) license plates would last less than a year.

    But hey, don't let that pesky ol' reality get in the way of yet another way for Uncle Sam to track our every move!
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @10:47AM (#44783379)

    I can't wait to hack one, that way I can change my plate on the fly. Metal plates are a hassle to fake, but an electronic plate that is designed to change at the push of a button is going to make counterfeiting super easy.

    Hell, you could have your plate change to a new (fake) number every time the odometer clicks over another mile. That will pollute all those fancy ANPR databases. You could really screw with those ANPR systems by using your own ANPR via a dash-cam that scans on-coming cars and once they have passed, switches your plate to that other car's license number.

    Either way you'll have a very small chance of getting caught since it will change so fast and you don't even need to stop the car to do it. Besides, normally no one even looks at your plate unless something bad has already happened,

  • Sigh, these policymakers always want the answer to come from some technology that they don't have to do any work for, on a problem that doesn't affect many people

    How about we first start with the things that are bigger problems for every day drivers? Highway design and traffic control? Road works and maintenance? How about the condition of public transit? Then after that, get to things like policing of carpool lanes, or people who drive around with license plates obscured. Maybe after all that
  • by Entropius (188861) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @10:56AM (#44783421)

    ... California has a referendum procedure. Can't the Californians vote this sort of shit so far down that they'll be looking for it in the Marianas Trench?

  • by bkmoore (1910118) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @11:15AM (#44783505)
    If plates become electronic and networked, then the question needs to be asked, why do we even need a license plate to display a number at all.
    • by dywolf (2673597)

      that what i said. use the RFID tags we use for automatic toll roads. if we got those out here in bumphuc no where i know they got them out in Cali.

    • If plates become electronic and networked, then the question needs to be asked, why do we even need a license plate to display a number at all.

      Actually you have that question exactly backwards. The question is, why have electronic networked plates in the first place? License plates were created to increase accountability - if you ran over a pedestrian and didn't stop, chances are someone would see your plate.

      That was a reasonable compromise, the plate wasn't really needed until after the driver behaved badly on the road. But making plates networked and such flips around - now we are all being observed in case some driver does something bad. We

    • If plates become electronic and networked, then the question needs to be asked, why do we even need a license plate to display a number at all.

      Let's someone watch the watchers?

  • CNSFSNP tag needed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wolvesofthenight (991664) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @11:20AM (#44783541)
    CNSFSNP: Complex Non-Solution For Simple Non-Problem

    Admittedly, idiot is often, but not always, an appropriate alternative term.
    • CNSFSNP: Complex Non-Solution For Simple Non-Problem

      Yes and no. The ability to wirelessly track cars would assist in the recovery of some stolen vehicles. And not having to put a sticker on a plate once a year is a tiny convenience. So this does solve a few problems.

      It's just that it creates even larger problems of privacy, not the least of which is that with the ability to wirelessly track cars comes the ability to stalk people. And it could have implications for national security as well -- imagine if a criminal knew the location of every police car, every

      • Yes, you are correct that there are arguments for it solving tiny problems. Especially the horror of having to put a new sticker on the plate every so often. Personally I just round those problems down to zero.

        Sadly, I think the wireless tracking is already becoming a reality even without Mr. Senator adding it. GMC is really pushing On Star. No doubt without thinking what will happen if someone hacks On Star and issues all cars the stolen vehicle stop / slow down command. Also, any in-car system, such as
  • Oh it's very clear (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WillyWanker (1502057) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @11:21AM (#44783547)

    Someone in the legislature has ties and is getting kickbacks from the company that makes the technology, so they have a huge financial incentive to push thru this blatantly-invasive technology that will ultimately cost the taxpayers millions of dollars and provide virtually zero benefit.

    See: red light cameras.

  • When you can just scan the occupants instead?

  • by ReallyEvilCanine (991886) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @11:30AM (#44783595) Homepage
    It still remains unclear as to exactly why this bill was proposed and what its objectives are.

    The objective is to make money for the company which paid into Ben Hueso's campaign fund and which, shocker!!, just happens to make exactly this sort of item or has "key patents" on it. Whenever something smells fishy, follow the money. Just ask yourself, "Who stands to benefit financially from this?" and you'll have your answer.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If you check the translation on hueso, you will see that Californians Ben Hueso'd. Should be his customized plate.

  • Who will be paying the for the data roaming fees then? or what happens if you are in area with no data network will it say error? default to EXPIRED? What good is STOLEN when some one can use a cell blocker to stop that from showing up?

  • by bmo (77928)

    " In an example shown by a South Carolina vendor, "

    >South Carolina vendor
    >California State Senate

    Of course this would come from states that gets hardly any real weather. The advantage of dumb-stamped-metal plates is that they are dumb. They require no batteries, electronics, etc, that need to be shielded from snow, rain, sleet, salt, rocks kicked up from the road, or falling meteors. Sure, you can take an electronic picture frame and put it on a car to display this stuff. Good luck weather-proofin

  • by PPH (736903)

    No more retro-reflective license plates. So no more cop lasers. On many vehicles, the only thing that provides sufficient return for the laser pulse is the license plate. Other surfaces are either non-reflective or scatter the beam.

    The cops hate my truck. Any impact with grass or brush (driving off road) bends the front plate to hell, scrapes it up and effectively makes it non reflective. I've been pulled over a few times when they get no laser return off it and told to get a new plate. Which will last for

    • by bmo (77928)

      "I've been pulled over a few times when they get no laser return off it and told to get a new plate. "

      And you just ignore them.

      Because I'm betting that the statute requiring a plate doesn't mention the condition must be in except that the plate must not be obscured by crud, mud, covers, (even clear covers can be illegal sometimes), or license plate holders. That it must be legible.

      http://i.imgur.com/pdzF80Q.jpg [imgur.com]

      --
      BMO

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Saturday September 07, 2013 @12:02PM (#44783755) Homepage Journal

    This is beyond idiocy. A physical license plate has many advantages over an electronic one.
    1. You can't hack a physical non-electronic plate.
    2. Physical plates serve as excellent reminders of who was where, especially in the cases of drunk idiots slamming into your car so hard THAT THEY LEAVE A PERFECT IMPRINT OF THEIR PLATE IN REVERSE on your car for easier tracking later on.
    3. Creation of physical plates does not result in as much pollution compared to electronic ones.
    4. Most physical plates are still quite usable after an accident. Electronic plate isn't going to be so useful after one fender bender, most likely.
    5. Electrical system problems might mean your car works but your license plate does not.

    I see one advantage the electronic plate might have - you won't need those license plate lights any longer, and those stupid neon license plate frames won't interfere with the visibility of an electronic plate emitting its own light versus a physical plate that relies upon the reflection of light.

  • FTFA: This product also allows that screen, once a vehicle comes to a stop for four seconds or longer, to display a different image on the plate such as an advertisement.

    *facepalm* Just what we need. Moar advertising!

  • Because that sure would be handy when I'm coming up to an intersection or within range of a known traffic camera so that my plate can toggle to the governor's personal license plate number or that guy from accounting I don't like.

  • Someone (e.g. Compliance Innovations) stands to make a lot of CA residents money with this. It would surprise me if legislature was NOT "lobbied" to come up with this otherwise what is the point? Electronic plates serve no practically useful purpose and offer a number of headaches including product cost, installation cost, maintenance/technical assistance, public / privacy issues, hacking exposure..etc.

    Recommendation to CA residents: Vote the bums out.

  • Does anyone have knowledge of a petition against this? Please post the URL and spread it far and wide so maybe we can still nip this bullshit in the bud.
  • They complain that mailing license plate sticker is a pain and cost a lot of money...well why they are still using them? They are so easy to counterfeit! Here in Quebec, we discontinued the use of them since 1992.
  • by goodmanj (234846) on Saturday September 07, 2013 @02:00PM (#44784567)

    The summary pushes this as a way to make plate readers even worse, but really smart plates are kind of the opposite of plate readers, and each makes the other less useful. You can either make the plates smart so critical data can be read by "dumb" human readers, or you can make the readers smart enough to read critical info from dumb plates. The "STOLEN" message can be e-printed on the plate, or it can pop up on the police cruiser's screen as the car drives by. Doing both is redundant.

    The main difference is that an e-ink plate can be read by people who aren't cops, while the plate reader can give a lot more information to the cops, whether you're breaking the law or not. If "neither" is not an option, smart plates come out ahead on civil liberties grounds. But see my post below on technical problems.

  • There's a major design problem here: what happens when the plate has no cell reception?
    * If it keeps displaying the plate number, then a car thief, murderer, or whatever can cover the plate with a transparent conductive film to create a Faraday cage, and keep on driving.
    * If it automatically switches off, or changes to read "NO SIGNAL" or something, then every law-abiding citizen in a cell coverage hole will be driving around with no license plate.

    Also, there are some technology issues with the display. Li

  • They say it's about changing plates to say "EXPIRED" or "STOLEN"; but I think the real reason they want it at this point is so they can Monetize drivers' license plates, BY renting out advertising space

    They can also use some of the AD slots to show PRO-ADMINISTRATION political messages; reminders to get out and vote Democrat, etc.

  • Someone just remind Gov. Jerry Brown that lots of conservative politicos from the central valley will be trying to remotely hack the plate on the gubernatorial limo to say "MOONBEAM".

    That'll get a veto so fast it'll outpace the refresh rate.

  • Wow! That! Is! Stupid!

    A better idea is a small rfid sort of thing that only transmit a number. The police can look up the cars info from this number. Cheaper, more effective, more private and the only thing it gives a way is a number - just like on your metal plate.

It is better to give than to lend, and it costs about the same.

Working...