After saying it would not release costs for a new electronic license plate and vehicle registration system, the Cayman Islands government on Wednesday revealed the total cost of the system is about $1.5 million.
The expenditure was broken into two budgets, with $350,000 spent in the previous 2015/16 fiscal year and the remaining $1,174,548 spent in the first six months of the current year, between July and December 2016.
“We provide the budgeted amount … that represents the costs of the Electronic Vehicle System over the next five years,” according to information provided by the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing following an open records request by the Cayman Compass.
The contract, signed on Jan. 14, 2016, runs through the same date in 2021, the department noted.
The contract is with Sistemat, S.A. Tonnjes C.A.R.D. International, based in Panama, according to the company’s website. The Sistemat firm is linked to German firm Tönnjes.
The department announced last month that about 45,000 vehicles would be fitted with the licenses over the next three years. The first vehicles to receive the new electronic tags and windscreen coupons will be the 700 or so that have been licensed temporarily since December, while government awaited the new plates. Implementation is expected to begin this month.
The number plates and the windscreen coupons are fitted with Radio-Frequency Identification chips – computer chip/antenna devices that can store relatively small amounts of information.
“They may simply be scanned by authorities, with only insurance and other vehicle particulars available to system users,” Mr. Dixon said in a statement. The users of the system are DVDL employees, who manage it, and the police, who will have “read only” access to the vehicle registration system.
Mr. Dixon said the plates contain no tracking ability via GPS, with which a vehicle could be followed around town at any time by police or vehicle licensing officials.
One practical law enforcement use for the new technology could be in the area of traffic stops initiated by police. For instance, an officer using an electronic plate-reading device at a roadblock could immediately scan and receive information that reveals whether an unregistered vehicle is being operated. At present, officers must first pull over the vehicle, check license and registration and contact the 911 Emergency Centre by radio to obtain the data.
Mr. Dixon said there would be no change in the present data exchange process between the RCIPS and the DVDL in regard to prosecuting someone for expired tags or failure to register their vehicle. Under the Traffic Law, the police must make a request to extract the information and receive a certificate of validity from the DVDL, a process that takes up to three days.
Ministry of Planning officials said there are other options for using the technology in the future, including putting electronic transmitters on stop lights or power poles to scan vehicle registrations. Those devices can tell system users where a vehicle was at a given time and date, but placing those scanners in enough places to physically track a vehicle as it traverses the island is considered cost-prohibitive at present.