The state of California is no stranger to automotive news and blog headlines. This time, it's a creative (depending on who you ask) idea intended to create a new source of income for the state: electronic license plates that flash advertisements. Why am I not surprised by this?

These attention grabbing, revenue generating plates will be designed to look exactly like the current plates most of the time. They'll always display the normal information required to identify a registered vehicle. The difference becomes apparent after the vehicle sits still for more than 4 seconds. At that point, they come to life, but it’s anyone’s guess what we’ll see. The technology could also be used to communicate other transportation-relevant information, like traffic updates or public service announcements.

The agreement would be maintained by advertisers and the Department Of Motor Vehicles. California Senator, Curren Price predicts a boost for local businesses and an increase in jobs as a result of the new plates. The hope is that this program will be part of the solution for the west coast state’s huge budget deficit of about $19.1 billion.

So what kind of ads should we expect to see? I can only speculate that advertisers would look at it as a large, possibly animated business card. At the least, a logo, phone number, and maybe url would be essential. Their window of exposure is limited to the average time spent sitting in traffic, or at a red light. So, come to think of it, they’ve got all the time in the world.

Some are concerned that it will be too much of a distraction to drivers.  This seems to be at least partially solved by only displaying ads on stopped vehicles. Still, there is no shortage of distractions to people behind the wheel. This makes me wonder, will the ads/announcements continue to be displayed on parked cars?  Imagine walking through an airport parking lot at night with hundreds of these e-plates glaring in your face. Let’s just hope they don’t make any noise.

[CNN]