Digital license plates may clear up automotive theft in Chicago, however present information to hackers

Chicago’s surge in auto thefts led a candidate for the Illinois State Department to demand digital license plates. The disks could be a convenience that could create privacy issues.

A woman in Chicago screamed when a stranger drove away in her Nissan SUV with her 3-year-old in the back seat. June 12. Seconds later, the car thief returned the child to the mother, but kept the car.

In Chicago and other cities, car thefts have spiked during the pandemic, returning to highs not seen in 20 years. To prevent similar carjacking, 17th Ward Ald. David Moore, who is running for Illinois Secretary of State, urges heads of state to allow digital license plates.

Introduced in California, Arizona, and Michigan, digital license plates offer features not found on regular license plates – including tracking capabilities if a car is stolen. Digital license plates record their location in an app so that car owners can always see the location of the digital license plates and the location of a stolen vehicle is shared with law enforcement agencies. The digital sign is also being redesigned to say “STOLEN” and warn surrounding drivers of the theft.

Moore said digital license plates will eliminate the need to go to driver service facilities for vehicle title, renewal and registration. You can also view messages about amber and silver alerts that use the same networks as cell phones. He wants them in all Illinois vehicles.

There are privacy concerns about digital plates, which are replacing traditional metal plates with the equivalent of a tablet. Experts fear telling the state government the location of a car, which would make it easier to introduce a tax on kilometers driven for electric vehicles that do not pay fuel taxes for road maintenance.

There is also a lot of data about where a driver is going and driving habits that could be collected and data could be vulnerable to hackers.

Some drivers refuse to turn license plates into travel advertisements for the state. When drivers park their cars in California, advertisements and government messages are broadcast on the digital license plates. Despite the private ownership of the license plates, the government owns and controls the number and the messages, including the displays.

The plates aren’t cheap. In California, a final five-year digital license plate costs $ 1,360: $ 700 for the license plate, $ 100 for the initial subscription fee, and $ 560 for the five years with $ 7 monthly payments for the cellular connection.

While Moore is trying to resolve the carjacking crisis, digital license plates pose privacy and cost issues that need to be addressed.