Illinois lawmaker wants to ban digital license plates

As state law enforcement fights a rash of carjackings, lawmakers disagree on how far Illinois should go to track vehicles.
Chicago aerial view
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A proposal for Illinois to do away with metal license plates, and instead use GPS-connected screens, is being met with resistance in the Illinois House of Representatives over privacy concerns.

David Moore, a Chicago alderman who’s running for secretary of state, last month proposed that Illinois adopt a “digital license plate” system, which would allow drivers to install digital screens on the back of their cars. One of the proposed features is that the license plate number could be replaced with the word “STOLEN” if the vehicle is reported stolen.

Under Moore’s proposal, the screens could also come with GPS trackers that transmit location data to a mobile app accessible by car owners. But state Rep. Tom Demmer, whose district serves north central Illinois, is pushing against the legislation, citing privacy concerns.

“Installing GPS trackers on every car in Illinois would raise serious privacy concerns, not to mention the potential for hacking and likelihood of technical problems in what would be an unprecedented intrusion by state government in the day-to-day lives of Illinois residents,” Demmer said in a press release posted on his website. “The risks associated with digital license plates clearly outweigh any potential benefit. The solution to carjackings is not to track and monitor every resident of the state.”


Demmer filed legislation late last month that would block the secretary of state from issuing any digital license plate that has a GPS tracker installed. Under Moore’s proposal, Illinois drivers would have the option to switch to the digital system, which he says would help deter carjackings, which have become more common in Illinois over the past two years. At least 750 carjackings in Chicago alone have already been reported this year, on pace to surpass last year’s total of 1,413.

The digital license plates would use the same networks as cellular phones, Moore said, and could also be used to display Amber Alerts.

“While law enforcement struggles to stop carjackings, DLPs will help Illinois drivers close the gap between the time a carjacking happens and police respond by alerting everyone within eyeshot,” Moore wrote on his website.

Digital license plate technology was explored in California in 2018 and has since been legalized in California, Arizona and Michigan.

Correction: Sept. 7, 2021: A previous version of this story indicated that Moore’s proposal would mandate the use of digital license plates, though it would in fact be optional.

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