California Considers License Plate Ads

In a desperation move to shore up the state budget, California lawmakers are considering a bill that authorizes a feasibility study on digital advertising on license plates.

In addition to being a moneymaker, the high-tech plates also could be used to streamline automobile registration procedures and to quickly tell motorists about hazardous road conditions and Amber Alerts, officials suggest. Critics warn, however, that the ads would distract drivers and add to a growing clutter of roadside digital billboards, freeway message boards and other intrusive signage. Some also fear that the computerized equipment that would control the advertising could be hacked and hijacked by vandals intent on posting rogue messages. Backers of the advertising idea say the digital plates could be programmed to display the ads only after an auto has been stopped for four seconds. The car’s license plate number would be visible in small type at the corner of the plate when ads are being displayed, they say. The ads would disappear and the plate numbers would be shown when the car was moving.

Schwarzenegger has promised to veto the bill.