South Carolina transit considers ‘e-tag’ technology
South Carolina is considering a switch from traditional metal license plates to high-tech “e tags.” Connected wirelessly to the DMV, the new plates will display an automobile’s status as “uninsured,” “suspended” or “stolen” to help law enforcement officers identify and reduce the number of criminal and uninsured motorists on the road.
"It's the first of its kind," David Findlay, co-founder of Compliance Innovations, the South Carolina-based company that created the new plates, told local CBS affiliate WSPA. "It's not an LCD or an LED. What it's made of is electronic paper. It's a new technology that allows you to hold the image with no power whatsoever for over 10 years. The only time it needs power is when you're changing the status or the image on the plate."
The plates are powered from the vibrations of a moving automobile, and from a clear film over the tag that collects solar energy, according to WSPA.
At this point, the company is proposing the state use e-tags on government-owned vehicles as part of a pilot program, according to WSPA. Several hurdles must be cleared before the plates can be made available to the public, such as reducing plate size and lowering the cost of fabrication. A traditional metal plate costs $3 to $7 to produce, and Compliance Innovations is working to produce e-tags for under $100 a piece.
Although the plates could be used to fight crime, privacy is a concern for motorists. The Daily Caller reports that the plates could be used to track individual vehicle movements, and online forum comments on the subject express fear that the plates may be misused, either by government agencies or private hackers.
However, Brian Bannister, another co-founder of Compliance Innovations, said plate tracking would not be as simple as the click of a DMV mouse. "No one entity could actually track an individual vehicle," Bannister told the Daily Caller. "It would require three court orders: to the DMV, to us and the (cellular) carrier themselves, to actually be able to locate a vehicle."
If implemented, Compliance Innovations says the plates will save the state money. It is estimated South Carolina loses $150 million a year to drivers who drive with expired tags or without insurance, according to WSPA.