Editor’s note: This article was updated to include additional information about legislative efforts to offer digital license plates, including additional companies that offer the product, and legislative analysis of both versions of legislation in the 2022 session.
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A possible move to future technology could be coming to Florida this year, if a bill passes that allows for digital license plates. Should it pass, the Sunshine State’s residents could upgrade displays and move away from metal license plates entirely.
House Bill 91, proposed by Rep. Nicholas Duran, D-Miami, would create the option for state residents to use a digitally-displayed license plate, instead of the current metal plates that are the national standard. At this time, only three states allow use of the digital plates, Arizona, California and Michigan.
As the plates would not be required to be digital if the bill passes, it’s largely a vanity item in terms of practicality, similar to custom license plate numbers.
Some of the digital plates are made by Reviver Auto, a California-based company. According to their site, Florida was attempting a digital license plate program in 2021. The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 862, was sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, but the bill died in the Appropriations Committee last April.
Now, Duran’s bill is making its way through the legislative process. As written, HB 91 would make it legal to use a digital plate “in lieu of a physical license plate” so long as the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles determines the display is readable by current plate recognition hardware and software.
Should it pass, HB 91 would take effect immediately upon becoming law. DHSMV would allow motor vehicles registered with a digital plate to be used by Oct. 1, 2023, according to the bill’s text. Additionally, DHSMV would be allowed to contract with companies that produce the items.
For drivers that switch to digital plates, the state would be required to have partner companies maintain an inventory and registration list of each digital plate issued. The digital plates would be required to have wireless connectivity and include all of the information a physical, metal license plate would have.
The legislative analysis of the digital license plate bill said the cost to residents would be high, but would not have an effect on state budgets. If Florida contracts with Reviver to offer digital plates to drivers, each driver using them would have to pay hundreds of dollars.
“In addition to any fees associated with the purchase of the digital license plate, the consumer is also responsible for paying to DHSMV all applicable motor vehicle fees, including the annual use fee associated with any specialty license plate the consumer wishes to display on the digital license plate,” according to the state legislature.
The analysis says digital license plates could be used for charging electronic tolls and broadcasting emergency alerts.
“One digital license plate provider, Reviver, prices their digital license plates starting at $899.” the analysis said. Drivers would also have to get a physical license plate from DHSMV before getting a digital one. The cost to make the digital plates work would also fall largely on the consumers themselves.
“Assuming that most of the connectivity programming is between the digital license plate provider and the consumer, the bill will have an insignificant impact on DHSMV expenditures,” according to legislative analysis. “If DHSMV is expected to provide connectivity, DHSMV asserts that this will require a significant amount of programming to multiple major DHSMV computer systems.”
The analysis also said the plates must have geolocation data for the vehicles they’re on, but that the data must be protected. Specialty license plates could also be offered digitally, but must comply with department procedures. If approved by the legislature and signed into law, HB 91 would allow for use of “static logo displays” for fleet license plates, specialty plates, plates visualizing military service and plates for use by government officials and federal and state lawmakers.
The version of the bill in the other legislative chamber, Senate Bill 1178, was proposed by Doug Broxson, R-Pensacola. Different than HB 91, SB 1178 has many of the same requirements for implementation as its House companion, but adds specificity for the types of alerts it names in the bill’s text, including Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts, in addition to the generic coverall of “emergency alerts.”
The senate bill also states that the digital license plates it would add to options for drivers would have to connect to the internet as well as have a mobile application to integrate with DHSMV operations and systems, including for license renewal. The bill would also require Florida to administer a pilot program to test functionality.
While the analysis of HB 91 focuses on Reviver, SB 1178’s analysis instead focuses on another company for digital license plates, Airplate. In a statement sent by Airplate to 8 On Your Side, the company said alongside Reviver, they are one of the two companies in the entire United States that provide digital license plates.
Analysis of SB 1178 does note that there is not a set price for Airplate’s digital license plates at this time, but lists uses for the company’s product.
“Airplate’s digital license plate is designed to initially be used by government fleet-issued vehicles, school buses, day care transportation vehicles, transportation vehicles for senior citizens, trucking, and rental car fleets,” the analysis says.
Airplate also provided materials about how the technology, if implemented, could aid law enforcement agencies with tracking expired licenses or insurance policies, policing school zone speeding, enforcing speed restrictions, and cutting down drunk or reckless driving in Florida, among other law enforcement applications.