Last updated: 19 May 2017
Will the digital driver’s license soon be found in everyone’s smartphone? The world is moving rapidly towards mobile and digital formats for everyday tasks. Already you can do all sorts of things with your mobile phone, from making payments, collecting or redeeming loyalty points to checking in on airlines. As a result, the smartphone is increasingly becoming more than a mobile wallet; indeed it is now a convenient way to identify and authenticate who we are. Now, it is the turn of the driver’s license to go digital.
Driving technology innovations
The connected car is a hot topic for both the automotive industry and consumers. As the IoT phenomenon continues to gather pace, car manufacturers and technology companies are striving to find new ways to ensure driver and passenger safety. Something that could also help to improve road safety and reduce fraud is a digital driving license. Having a digital license available on our mobile device would be a natural progression, bringing with it more benefits and opportunities for issuers, regulatory authorities and drivers.
The primary goals of the driving license, whether physical or mobile, remain to confirm the identity of the driver and confer upon its holder the right to drive a vehicle. Pilots have been launched in a number of U.S. states to explore the technical feasibility of a mobile license. In these trials, the key aspects of a physical license will remain, including the driver name, address and date of birth, and a photo.
Replacing the traditional license?
A digital driver’s license could be considered an on-screen version of the traditional license, but it’s important to note that it wouldn’t just be an ‘image’ – the technology is actually far more complex and sophisticated than that.
Here’s how it might work. When a license holder requests it, the issuer pairs the applicant’s phone and profile on a backend system. The user then downloads the mobile license through a secure mobile application. The data is encrypted and securely retrieved. Its digital format comes with additional security features to combat counterfeiting and real-time authentication for better document control against identity fraud.
Beyond these important security features, issuing authorities have shown particular interest in the mobile format’s user convenience:
- for holders, who can travel lighter with a digital driver’s license, which can be easily updated on their phone. Citizens could also amend their personal information or even renew their Mobile driver’s license directly through the application instead of visiting an office or calling a number, saving time and resources
- for law enforcement or other parties wanting to quickly verify identity and privileges
- for issuing authorities, who can explore new services requiring a trusted and secure channel. It will allow them to have much greater control over in-use credentials compared with a traditional physical license; for example, alerting holders when their license is about to expire
There are some technical and regulatory issues that need to be ironed out before licenses become fully digital. Regulators would need to determine whether it is worth the investment and also whether it should complement, or replace the traditional license. The debate still continues on whether the new digital driver’s license could be issued as a complement to the traditional license well as whether it could replace it completely.
The driver’s license has been a standard for decades, acting not just as proof you can drive, but also as an ID to verify age and identity. Therefore, mobile driving licenses could potentially enhance:
- Police controls: roadside stops to identify the driver of a vehicle and his/her privileges
- Proof of age: where purchase of alcohol or cigarettes is required
- Car rental: to identify the renter, ensure driving privileges and quickly share personal details
- Identity validation or confirmation for hotel check-in, financial institutions, social services
- Online authentication: from access control to identity verification
Although the digital driver’s license still has some way to go before becoming a complement or replacement to the traditional license, it’s clearly gaining traction, with other countries like Australia, India and some European states also exploring the option.
What do you think of mobile driving licenses? Let us know your thoughts by tweeting to us @Gemalto.