Six states will trial digital driver’s license tests in 2018

October 24, 2017 - 

The governments of six states — including Iowa, Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Wyoming — will begin trialing digital and mobile driver’s license tests in 2018, according to a report by Government Technology.

In what is perhaps the most notable plans of the six states, Iowa is collaborating with IDEMIA to introduce the mobile drivers’ licenses (mDLs) to iOS and Android users, as well as develop the biometric technology to access the app.

Officials in all six states hope encrypted, app-based drivers’ licenses and remote reader technology will improve safety for residents and law enforcement, achieve operational and cost efficiencies and ultimately lead to widespread adoption.

Geoff Slagle, director of identity management at the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, said that while he does not believe that digital drivers’ licenses (DDLs) and mDLs will entirely replace their plastic or paper versions for a few years, it is expected that a dozen or more states will introduce DDLs or mDLs within the next five years.

AAMVA, whose membership is comprised of representatives from law enforcement agencies and departments of motor vehicles across the country, has established a working group to develop standards, as well as a committee to examine driver’s license appearance.

He said there are several challenges to fully implementing the DDLs and mDLs, such as aversions to the technology and the different kinds of equipment used by law enforcement agencies nationwide.

However, he said the technology may be imminent because of their potential to decrease fraud, safeguard privacy and instill greater confidence that drivers’ license holders are who they claim to be.

“It is not a question of whether or not this happens, it’s a question of when,” Slagle said.

Iowa completed a 90-day mDL pilot in 2015 and 2016 of a solution developed by MorphoTrust USA (now IDEMIA).

Jenny Openshaw, senior vice president of sales for IDEMIA’s North America identity and security efforts, said the company expects to sign contracts with the Iowa government by early November.

“It is a big leap, and we do feel like it puts both Iowa and Idemia into the vanguard,” said Openshaw, who called the opportunity a “paradigm shift” and said she expects other states across the country will carefully watch Iowa’s results before following suit..

Iowa’s new app-based mDL will focus on identification in “all the typical places” residents currently use their traditional driver’s license, as well as use “high” levels of encryption like facial recognition to access the app, according to Openshaw.

In addition, police officers will be able to remotely send a request for information from a smartphone or laptop in their vehicle to the subject’s smartphone.

Both police officers and retail clerks will be able to verify the mDL in-app without using any other hardware.

The mDLs should be available across the state at some point during 2018, and even as soon as mid-year. However, Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) director Mark Lowe said that further development is still required.

As for now, neither mDLs nor DDLs are mandatory and Iowa residents will continue to use their plastic licenses.

This past summer, Colorado, Idaho, Maryland and Washington, D.C. all piloted smartphone-based DDL technology developed by Gemalto.

Wyoming joined the pilot earlier this fall and is set to begin its Phase 1 trials in November in order to catch up to the other agencies so that all can complete Phase 2 use cases in 2018.

The tests saw participation from Colorado Department of Revenue and Office of Information Technology employees, as well as more than 400 Maryland DOT employees and family members.

Here, as with the IDEMIA solution, app-based technology focuses on allowing subjects to keep their cellphones while revealing only the needed information.

Law enforcement officers could verify IDs in the field by providing individuals with a card to be scanned, according to a Maryland official.

Steve Purdy, Gemalto’s vice president of state government programs, said that the company is focused on determining the accuracy of subjects’ identities and maintaining their privacy was of high importance.

Phase 2 pilots, which will begin next year, will analyze additional use cases sharing, such as adding extra layers of driver’s license information to rent a car or open a bank account.

Purdy said that Gemalto’s solution is “pretty mature” and could potentially replace plastic licenses, but it is unclear what will happen after Phase 2.

“But we have seen, not just in the ones participating in the pilot but in our conversations, there are other jurisdictions that are definitely interested in going into production with us,” Purdy said. “They definitely see it as a wave of the future.”

A new research study released in August revealed that the majority of the U.S. public is ready for the traditional plastic driver’s license to go mobile.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.