ALPR or ANPR?

ALPR – Automatic License Plate Recognition

ANPR – Automatic Number Plate Recognition

The proper name for that small board with numbers and letters that identifies a vehicle is a Vehicle Registration Plate.

The very first vehicle registration plates had numbers only. France introduced them in 1893, Germany in 1896, Netherlands in 1898 and then the rest of the world followed. Letters started appearing later to indicate the jurisdiction or the initials of the owners.

Usage stats

The term ALPR and ANPR are used interchangeably. This table shows the usage by geography.

 US mentionsUK mentionsRest of the world
"Car number plate" in newspaper archives 3,222,267550,246
"Car license plate" in newspaper archives1,271,66649,936
ALPR in newspaper archives215 after year 2000- mostly irrelevant results -
ANPR in newspaper archives- mostly irrelevant results -20 after year 2000
ALPR in patents (480)18712281
ANPR in patents (1,027)12653848
Number plate in patents (532k)256k27k249k
License plate in patents (25k)14k31410k
"automatic license plate recognition" in Google118,000
"automatic number plate recognition" in Google315,000
"automated license plate recognition" in Google36,900
"automated number plate recognition" in Google17,500
"number plate recognition" in Google463,000
"license plate recognition" in Google887,000

So the origin for “license plate” is clearly American and for “number plate” it is British.

  • ALPR is used in the US and not in the UK.
  • ANPR is the complete opposite – it is used in the UK and not the US.
  • Globally, there are more patents for ANPR than ALPR
  • License plate recognition” has twice as many Google search results than “number plate recognition
  • Google numbers for “ALPR” vs “ANPR” are meaningless because they return mostly rubbish past a few pages, but then Google returns mostly rubbish past a few pages anyway.
  • automatic” returns 10x more results than “automated” in combination with “license plate recognition“.

Google Trends

  • There are approximately 5x more searches in Google for ANPR than ALPR.
  • license plate recognition” and “number plate recognition” go head to head.
  • Google does not offer corrections or cross-search suggestions between ANPR and ALPR.


You should be OK using either ALPR or ANPR talking to a human being. An online search will see them as totally different terms and return different results.