Jan 05 2015

More States Consider Digital Driver’s Licenses

Iowa is launching a pilot this year to test the feasibility of providing digital licenses. Other states could soon follow.

Iowa is poised to become the first state to offer motorists a digital version of their driver’s licenses, but it likely won’t be the last.

The company partnering with Iowa to pilot this innovation says more than half of the 42 states it contracts with to provide physical driver’s licenses and identification cards are considering the move to digital. This would not eliminate the physical license but rather offer individuals an option of accessing their credentials from their smartphones.

Scott Mahler

Iowa will launch a limited pilot this year with a subset of employees at the Department of Transportation (DOT), says Jenny Openshaw, vice president of state and local sales at MorphoTrust USA. The pilot will test security features of the new app and whether the digital license is easy to use and convenient for the average user.

The digital license would be accessed through a mobile app. Eligible users could use a secure PIN to access the license from their phones or credentials from their physical license, Openshaw explains.

Addressing Security Concerns

Speaking at a state agency budget hearing last month, Iowa DOT Director Paul Trombino said the app should be highly secure, reported The Des Moines Register.

But there are other concerns around user privacy, according to a contributor to CNET. What if a police officer asks to take your phone and checks your license in a squad car? Would the officer possibly access other information on your device?

Openshaw says some privacy concerns have been discussed with DOT. The department is also discussing the issues with its partners, including law enforcement. “We do think that we have some very interesting and innovative solutions to address those kinds of concerns,” she says, noting that it’s too early to discuss those approaches in detail.

Today, Iowans can show electronic proof of their insurance coverage during a traffic stop, according to The Des Moines Register news story. In such instances, motorists hand an officer their smartphones, as would be the case with a digital license.

The digital license would be much more than an electronic image of a physical license, Openshaw says. “It would contain its own set of dynamic security features, some visible to [the] naked eye and some not, that would enable the license to be secured and use[d] for everyday transactions.”


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