Photo via Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration

Maryland is testing out the license plates of the future, though they won’t be available to the general public just yet.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration announced today that 20 vehicles from its fleet, plus two Maryland Transportation Authority vehicles, will be equipped for the next two years with license plates featuring electronic displays. The devices use the same display technology as Amazon’s Kindle e-readers.

It’s part of a pilot initiative, the first of its kind on the East Coast. Arizona, California and Michigan already allow drivers to use the pricey plates, which can be updated with stolen-vehicle or Amber alerts and, in some cases, display ads when they’re stopped. Texas legislators also recently agreed to test them them on business fleets.

“At MDOT MVA, we are constantly evaluating emerging technologies in the transportation industry to find innovative ideas that could benefit our customers,” MVA Administrator Chrissy Nizer said in a statement. “We are excited about the digital plate pilot and the potential of this technology to pave the way for additional customer convenience.”

They’ll be trying out the Rplate, made by Bay Area startup Reviver. In addition to the aforementioned safety and emergency alerts, they can also be updated to automatically reflect new registration information, in lieu of stickers mailed out to drivers by the MVA.

“We look forward to partnering with the state to leverage the vast potential digital license plates offer for future innovation,” Reviver co-founder and CEO Neville Boston said in a statement.

The price tag is something to consider if and when these roll out for the masses. A basic digital plate runs $349, plus $3 per month, and a GPS-trackable one costs $499, with a $7 monthly fee, according to the Reviver website.

For reference, regular old two-year registrations for passenger cars, vans and SUVs in Maryland cost $135 or $187, depending on the size of the vehicle.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...

One reply on “Maryland to test out digital license plates on 22 state vehicles”

  1. I assume that these digital plates will be powered with Lithium batteries, so the interesting question is what happens in an rear or front end accident if the battery is pierced and the battery catches on fire (the nature of lithium batteries), with the possibility of gas tank rupture also? Who is responsible – motorist, MD-DOT? Would insurance companied raise costs?

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