Unless you're the proud owner of "BIG DAV 1", the code on the front of your car doesn't tell the world much about you or your vehicle. Paris-based studio Artworklove has a plan to change that.
We decided to modernise the registration plate after considering a number of objects that have an everyday, infographic value, but that could work harder. Our aim was to create something that was luminous, linked, easily updated and multi-purpose.
Physically, we respected the size of the UK licence plate, reducing it slightly to accommodate some electronics. The plate would be made from low-energy LEDs and would be linked to the DVLA and police databases by wi-fi and 4G. It would display the registration details but also ticker-tape messages, warnings, QR codes and advertising.
For the typography, we looked back at the pre-1973 plates (which are much cooler) and tried to take some cues from their simple elegance. We chose a more condensed typeface to give us more screen space, and added some curves (sharp angles are so Lamborghini Countach).
One of the ideas of the plate is to dissuade drivers from doing things that might be dangerous. If our registration plate is displaying the fact that we've broken the speed limit, we might be a bit more careful. If other people can see how long it's been since we've taken a break, we might pull over. This may seem a bit "surveillance state", but our actions on the road have a big impact on others, so a little encouragement might make a big difference.
1. Short codes
At the scene of an accident, a car speeds away – there are seven letters and numbers that you have to remember, which is often, frankly, impossible. We propose a five-character code: a three-letter word (consonant, vowel, consonant) and two numbers give a total of 220,500 variations. Combined with the location, make and model of the car, the chances of two codes being mixed up are infinitesimal.
2. QR codes
Police cars are already fitted with front-mounted cameras that record the registration plates of cars. With QR codes, various items of information could be scanned instantly: the date of the last MOT, driver's insurance, model of car. The codes are randomly updated every minute by a police database.
Who's paying for the rollout of all this new technology? Advertisers and private industry, of course. The info-plate can flash sponsors' messages at appropriate moments.
4. Environmental concerns
Eco-friendly iconography will encourage people to buy efficient vehicles. Cars that are not eco-friendly will display an icon showing their mounting carbon emissions – a mark of shame (unless you're Jeremy Clarkson).
5. Stolen cars
The second you realise your car is stolen, you can send a notification by smartphone to the info-plates to display a message. Police or enthusiastic community vigilantes would stop the vehicle at the first opportunity. No more "I didn't know it was stolen" excuses at car auctions.
Why do we rely on static notices on fixed boards? Drivers need real-time updates of problems up ahead. We can use the info-plate to display traffic notifications.
When you exceed the speed limit your info-plate automatically displays your speed. You can either pull over and call in your fine for a reduced rate, or wait to be stopped by the police, who will charge a processing fee.
Drivers who don't take breaks can cause fatal accidents. It's not exactly illegal, but if you spot someone who's on a 10-hour driving binge, you might want to change lanes.