Barcode license plates were in use by 2015 as a means of identifying cars. It is assumed that they could reveal much more information once scanned than a standard license plate which only previously displayed a six or seven alphanumeric digit combination. It is possible that they could be scanned in the same manner as regular barcodes for use in laser checkout systems.
The DeLorean time machine's barcode plate had the number sequence of 136113966.
Behind the scenes
- The DeLorean's barcode license plate was on the car for all three films, and over a span of 130 years in movie time. This is rather ironic considering the original license plate, OUTATIME, barely stayed on for five minutes and didn't even make one trip through time. One explanation for this could be that the first license plate was not properly contained with the flux dispersal field, and so became "dislodged" during temporal displacement. By the time of the second license plate with the barcode, Emmett Brown may have adjusted for this problem. Coincidentally, upon the destruction of the DeLorean, the barcode license plate came off and spun on the ground like the first plate did.
- The camera filming the rear of the DeLorean can be seen in the reflection of the barcode license plate.
- Barcode license plates like that sported by the DeLorean in the Back to the Future trilogy are unlikely to be seen on vehicles in the foreseeable future as it would make visual identification difficult; the number sequence below the parallel lines on the plate cannot be easily read at a distance. When a witness must report a vehicle in the commission of a crime, they would be able to read the license number to a 9-1-1 dispatcher, therefore causing the dispatcher to pull up identifying information pertaining to the vehicle's registrant. This would no longer be possible as humans cannot read barcodes, causing more potential criminals to flee the crime scene as long as no scanners are in the vicinity.
- Computer vision systems are able to read conventional license plates, such as the United Kingdom's Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology, as invented in 1976 (license plates are known as number plates or registration plates in the U.K.), and known as the Automatic License Plate Reader/Recognition (ALPR) system in the United States — thus rendering barcode license plates unnecessary. However, some vehicle registration and inspection stickers have had barcodes added.
- As with the 2015 justice system involving data-courts that works way too swiftly and too harshly, Hill Valley of the future seems to be part of a very repressive society. The existence of barcode license plates (as well as transponders and air traffic control, both of which are mentioned in Craig Shaw Gardner's novelization) implies that there are scanners everywhere, perhaps not very obvious, to track all vehicles at all times.
- Of course, since its function hasn't been outright elaborated on-screen in any way, it is possible the plate may not function as an actual barcode to be read directly, but as a transponder and/or tracking device. Relevant information could be stored on it. This would allow for longer range vehicular scanners on law enforcement vehicles to track at a distance and get relevant info at a moment's notice without having to scan the plate directly like a barcode would need. Such data storage and retrieval technology exists today.