Android and several U.S. states working towards digital driver’s licenses

Android and several U.S. states working towards digital driver’s licenses

Digital driver’s licenses may soon be introduced in many U.S. states, but not North Dakota.

Oklahoma is expected to start testing app-based driver’s licenses with facial recognition in May, local TV station News 9 reports. The digitization could enable police to issue tickets with only mobile interaction, and consumers to share only relevant information, such as their age when being admitted to a bar.

The state’s Secretary of Digital Transformation and Administration David Ostrowe says it is working with IDEMIA, which has developed similar technology for Iowa and other states. Iowa is planning to launch digital licenses to public availability soon, as trials in 2015 and 2016 were successful, and the Director of Iowa’s Department of Transportation wants other states to follow suit, according to News 9.

Oklahoma’s pilot is expected to launch with around 1,000 participants, with a general roll-out following in October.

Maryland is also expected to begin issuing digital licenses soon, according to a local CBS affiliate. As in Oklahoma, the digital version would supplement the physical card, allowing license holders to identify themselves to retailers as over 18 or 21 years of age to enable purchases of age-restricted items.

Florida’s state legislature is also set to consider a bill that would pave the way for digital driver’s licenses, according to The South Florida Sun Sentinel. The bill is being brought by Tampa Republican James Grant, who co-sponsored a similar bill which did not advance to the floor of the legislature last year. The new bill may receive more support, however, as Palm Beach County Democrat Matt Willhite withdrew a proposal for an auto insurance database to combine its key elements with Grant’s proposal.

Grant’s bill would also introduce recognition of blockchain as a legitimate method of confirming a transaction, just like a signature.

In North Dakota, House Bill 1544 proposing the adoption of digital driver’s licenses was defeated 67-23, the Grand Forks Herald reports. The bill was intended to address a lack of licensing services in rural areas, and had an estimated price tag of $3.5 million over two years to upgrade back-end systems.

The above systems utilize or propose the use of purpose-built apps, but XDA Developers reports that Google is working on an IdentityCredential API, which would enable a future version of Android, possibly Android R, to securely store digital licenses and other identity cards. A code commit by Android Hardware-backed Keystore Team Lead, Shawn Willden, indicates the system would use the ISO 18013-5 standard for mobile driving licenses, and would be able to display ID information even if the device does not have enough battery power to boot Android, so long as it can power the secure hardware and low-power communication, such as through NFC. The XDA Developers article delves into the type of hardware that would be needed to support such a feature, which could also eventually store passports, with cooperation from the ICAO.

There are 15 states in total currently developing or considering digital driver’s licenses, according to American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators numbers cited by the Sun Sentinel.

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