California Considers Ads on License Plates

The scariest California disaster at the moment has nothing to do with earthquakes, mudslides, or brushfires -- it's the state's financial crisis. I spend my share of time stressing out over it, and appreciate the need for extraordinary responses. But I still have my doubts about a bill which would roll out electronic license plates to Californian motorists -- ones which could display ads when cars were stopped at red lights or otherwise temporarily out of motion.

This article on the proposed technoplates doesn't provide much detail, other than that the ads would kick in only when a car was stopped for at least four seconds, and that a company called S

mart Plate might be involved. But even if you aren't worried about the potential for the plates being dangerously distracting, the government mandating that we put ads on our cars doesn't sound wildly different from insisting that we install neon signs in our living-room windows. (No, Governor Schwarzenegger, that wasn't a suggestion.)

Howsabout this: What if the plates were strictly optional -- but driver who elected to use them got a cut of the ad revenue? Each citizen could choose whether to go commercial or keep his or her car a commercial-free zone. Or raise auto-related fees but offer the plate ads as a way of avoiding the hikes. Or something. Your ideas welcome . . .

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