Electronic License Plates Set Out to Be More Than Just a Display
Electronic license plates won't just give drivers more personalization. They can keep registration up to date via an app and even prevent vehicle theft.
In 2020, 810,400 vehicles were stolen in the United States. Thieves used both creative and straightforward methods, including smart keys, VIN replacement, and simply driving away when fobs were left inside.
This high number of thefts may soon decline because of Reviver, a company with patented electronic license plates. Reviver recently received an official stamp of approval from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to roll out a nationwide program allowing drivers to upgrade metallic and plastic metal plates to its electronic version.
RPlate placed on vehicle rear in STOLEN mode. Image used courtesy of Reviver
Electronic plates are also called digital display license plates. Reviver claims its RPlate is much more than an electronic display, however. Beyond theft protection, RPlate may allow drivers to avoid the dreaded lines at the DMV, enabling them to tackle car registration and ownership paperwork through in-app actions. Furthermore, the cloud-connected vehicle platform authorizes law enforcement to disable a stolen car once the owner gives a green light. Reviver may usher in a new era of connected vehicles to replace physical vehicle identity with an electronic one that is more difficult to tamper with.
California was the first state to start experimenting with electronic license plates back in 2018 with the goal of eliminating lost or stolen renewal stickers and tabs, license plates, and cards. Since then, Arizona, Michigan, and most recently Texas have been among the first states to follow. Drivers can purchase and register RPlates at DMVs in California, Arizona, and Michigan. Ten more are in different stages of adoption.
How Do Electronic Licence Plates Work?
Electronic license plates pair external digital display technology with internal components that include a processor that stores vehicle information, speed and light detection sensors, and an ignition disrupter that disables ignition. Each of the hardware components is said to be tamper-proof.
Internal and external components are connected to a central computer system, which can operate as the vehicle's own or be connected to a remote computer system that issues alerts and remote commands in case it detects tampering.
For convenience's sake, digital license displays are made from e-ink or electronic paper. Instead of emitting light (like LED/OLED displays), the e-paper display (EPD) reflects light and is therefore convenient to read under direct sunlight.
Cross-section of electronic-ink microcapsules. Image used courtesy of Halmstad University
An EPD is powered by electrophoresis, the movement of electrically-charged particles in a fluid, and power is only required when the display image changes. EPDs are usually monochromatic and can be made very thin and light. This makes them suitable to be placed on a car’s rear and front to display messages without distracting other drivers.
Reviver RPlate Patent
Revivers’ basic patent model is made of four components—a display, a processor, a trigger device, and a vehicle speed sensor—that work in three operational modes. Content is represented on the display based on the operational mode:
Table 1. Operational modes of Reviver's patent model based on vehicle state and speed.
State of the Vehicle
No trigger event identified
VIN and registration identification
No trigger event identified
VIN and registration identification
Trigger event identified
VIN and driver information
The patent design proposes a fourth mode that would allow the system to operate at a second power consumption level.
Additionally, an ambient light-detecting sensor could be incorporated into the design to enable the backlight to control the intensity of the displayed information and the light reflective surface to illuminate the plate according to road conditions.
With the ability to display static and dynamic content simultaneously and interchangeably, Reviver’s patent is an improvement over traditional license plates. Dynamic information may include organizations the driver associates with and smog checks details. Such minutia may turn digital plates into small computers that provide a myriad of personalization, convenience, and security features to users. The plates also include 5G network connectivity and Bluetooth for user control.
RPlate and RFleet for Consumers and Businesses
Consumers and commercial businesses can now purchase RPlate and the associated RFleet fleet management software through Reviver and authorized dealerships and legally drive in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
RPlate is available as a subscription plan to consumers who can choose between two power source types. The first type is battery-powered and can be self-installed in under five minutes The second type is hardwired, including a backlit display, and needs to be professionally mounted.
Electronic registration renewal eliminates the need to get new stickers every year. Drivers can also use GPS vehicle location and security features, such as easily reporting a car stolen. Reviver says RPlate allows drivers to use prepaid services for toll fees and parking permits, making everyday errands more manageable.
RFleet Software Dashboard
The RFleet package for commercial businesses includes telematics capabilities, adding another security level. Vehicles are equipped with tamper-proof plates based on SSL/TLS encryption certificates. Another motivation for businesses to transition to electronic license plates, according to Reviver, is the ability to run ads on them.
Automated vehicle registration helps transport and logistics businesses eliminate hours of paperwork and smooth supply chain management under tight delivery deadlines. Fleet managers can monitor mileage and electricity spent to plan route efficiency, estimate arrival times, and reduce the carbon footprint of the concerned business. Vehicles can be tracked in real-time with geofencing, setting physical restrictions for drivers that move past the allowed zone.
RPlate features. Image used courtesy of Reviver
Using the integrated GPS tracking system, law enforcement can locate and disable vehicles put into a STOLEN mode. Highway patrol officers can access information about vehicle speed and position remotely, improving traffic safety and reducing speeding violations.
The Issue of Privacy
Due to the volume of data they generate, connected systems pose a real threat to data privacy. Consumers have legitimate privacy concerns despite the measures taken to store data securely in the cloud.
Even if law enforcement gets access to data—only when the driver enables the relevant features—there is still the potential threat of hijacking systems remotely and causing systemic damage. Criminals always find new ways to steal cars. It is the task of hardware and software designers to make their job more difficult by ensuring electronic license plates are as tamper-proof as possible—as is Reviver's goal.