Microchips
Microchipped number plates join fight against vehicle crime
Daily Telegraph - Dec 3, 2002 - original story
Electronic number plates, which will be "read" 24 hours a day by roadside microwave beacons and cameras, are to be introduced in 2004. By the end of 2007, the Government aims to have them on every road vehicle in Britain, writes Michael Kemp.

Each plate will have a microchip containing details of the vehicle's make, type, colour, engine, transmission, date and place of manufacture; its registered keeper; MoT status and insurance validity. False plates will automatically raise an alert through the police national computer in Hendon and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea. Computers will be programmable to find any wanted vehicle. It will mean new number plates being fitted to more than 29.2 million vehicles.

The chips will cost about 1 each and a set of electronic number plates up to 35, or more if a one-off tax is applied to make motorists pay for the roadside "reading" infrastructure.

The DVLA, which drew up the plans, is proposing that "the whole system is financed by taxation". The electronic readers, planned to be on every road, will cost "an estimated average 1,000 each when purchased in quantity and placed on existing poles and gantries". A probable installation cost of about 100 million will be "dramatically reduced" by sharing existing infrastructure. Marked and unmarked police cars will also be fitted with the readers.

Electronic number plates will be fitted by new vehicle suppliers and MoT testing stations. From the start of 2003, all number plate producers will be registered by law, under the Crime Prevention Act, and plates supplied only on production of a vehicle registration document and proof of entitlement by the vehicle's keeper.

By December 2007, the DVLA aims to introduce drive-in, paperless automated relicensing, which will spell the end for windscreen-mounted tax discs.

The electronic plates have been developed by Birmingham-based Hills Number Plates, which makes 50 per cent of Britain's registration tags. A spokesman said: "Relicensing will be like buying a drive-in hamburger. You will not need to leave the wheel. Just hand over a credit card and the whole process will be done electronically." Cash is expected to be accepted.

"Front and rear microchip number plates are now fully developed at an extra cost of no more than 1 each to the motor trade. Normally a microchip costs about 5, but by ordering tens of millions we have negotiated a considerably lower price.

"Hills is working closely with the DVLA and expects the go-ahead for electronic number plates in 2004. Microchip readers will be on the Trafficmaster (driver traffic information) radio masts that cover the main road network, and certain camera sites."

By 2004, the DVLA aims to have merged driver, vehicle and insurance records into a "single or virtually single" database from which the number-plate microchips will be programmed. New regulations will compel motorists and dealers to inform the DVLA within one working week of vehicle ownership changes.