The California State Senate recently approved a bill that will allow residents to be the first in the nation to own electronic license plates. The bill, which has already passed the state’s assembly, now only needs approval from Governor Jerry Brown to become a reality.

Instead of a simple metal place that is updated with a sticker to display registration information, an electronic display would be used for the same purpose. The digital version could allow the plate to receive updates wirelessly when it comes time to renew the plate – effectively eliminating a visit to the local vehicle registration center each year.

But perhaps even more interesting is the ability to display specific messages on the plate. For example, if someone didn’t pay to have their tag renewed, the word EXPIRED could be displayed to better help alert law enforcement. Furthermore, messages like STOLEN could be activated when a vehicle turns up missing. It’d be much easier for cops to locate stolen vehicles this way versus current methods.

The language in the bill suggests it should be limited to a pilot program with no more than 0.5 percent of registered vehicles participating. This would give plenty of time to road test and evaluate the program before wrapping up on January 1, 2017.

Several other states including South Carolina and New Jersey are working on similar legislation. A company called Compliance Innovations is leading the charge for electronic license plates in South Carolina, we’re told.