TRENTON – Is there nothing that can’t get a tech upgrade? Lawmakers are advancing a plan to allow for digital license plates on vehicles in New Jersey.

Esteban Nunez, legislative director for Reviver, the company that created the first digital license plate platform, said the plates can be updated with different specialty insignias and slogans purchased from the state, Amber alerts – or even a message saying that car had been stolen.

“It’s essentially like a Kindle, so even if you took a sledgehammer to this, you would still see the letter/number configuration,” Nunez said. “It’s not an LCD screen.”

Could digital license plates help address spike in NJ car thefts?

Four states now allow for use of the digital plates: Arizona, California, Michigan and Texas, though for commercial fleets only in Texas. But they’re not cheap, costing $20 a month or $215 a year for a four-year subscription.

Nunez told lawmakers the benefits include an easy way to renew a vehicle registration, done through a mobile or web app. But if it’s not renewed on time, the plate could be designed to include an ‘INVALID’ sign.

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The plates also could be personalized the way specialty plates are now to support colleges, causes and sports teams but updated seasonally, perhaps featuring a favorite NFL team each fall or MLB team in the spring.

“So you could alternate back and forth depending on who’s a winner and who’s a loser,” said Assemblyman Tom Giblin, D-Essex.

How police in NJ could use digital license plates

Government authorities such as police agencies would be able to display Amber or Silver alerts, emergency weather alerts or even a message saying that the car had been stolen.

“A user through the app would essentially upload the police report, and then it would read stolen across the plate on the top,” Nunez said.

He said that in California and Arizona, the word ‘STOLEN’ replaces the name of the state on the plate. The license plate letter/number combination itself isn’t replaced.

How close is NJ to allowing digital license plates?

The bill, A4497, was approved by the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee, but that’s only its first hurdle of many.

It was sent to the Assembly Science, Innovation and Technology Committee for further consideration and hasn’t yet been taken up in the Senate.

New Jersey's license plate designs through the years

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