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Delaware pilot program will replace driver’s license with a smartphone app

Published Mar 14th, 2018 11:32PM EDT
Mobile drivers license app

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Delaware could be the first state to roll out electronic driver’s licenses, provided a new pilot program goes well. The Delaware DMV has launched a test program that will include around 200 DMV employees and “stakeholders,” who will use an electronic driver’s license for the next six months.

“It is exciting for us to be one of the first states to test this innovative technology that can both protect the privacy of our customers and enhance safety in ways that can’t be achieved with a traditional driver license or identification card,” said Scott Vien, Director of the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles. “It is our responsibility to always bring the best-in-class offerings to our State and an mDL holds the promise of offering an always-updated, secure credential that will be easy-to-use by our consumers, businesses and law enforcement.”

“This six month pilot will help us see what mDLs look like in real-world scenarios and address any issues that arise as a result before we decide to fully adopt and implement this application for our more than 800,000 licensed drivers and ID card holders,” said Secretary of Transportation Jennifer Cohan.

According to a release from the DMV, features of the mobile driver’s license (mDL) will include:

• Enhanced privacy for age verification: No need to show a person’s address, license number and birthdate. The mobile driver’s license will verify if the person is over 18 or 21 and display a photo.

• Law enforcement use during a traffic stop: The mobile driver’s license will allow law enforcement officers to ping a driver’s smartphone to request their driver’s license information before walking to the vehicle.

• Business acceptance: Understanding how businesses that require identification or age verification interact with the mobile driver’s license will be advantageous throughout the pilot study.

• Ease of Use: Ensuring the mobile driver’s license is able to be presented to any organization without difficulty.

• Secure access: The mobile driver’s license is unlocked and accessible only by the license holder. The mobile driver’s license is accessed through an app on the owner’s smartphone and is opened/unlocked by entering a user-created PIN or facial recognition.

Although electronic versions of driver’s licenses have been considered before, Delaware’s approach is novel for taking full advantage of all the opportunities of making an ID electronic. Protecting privacy by only showing relevant information is clever, and allowing police to remotely check information before approaching a vehicle could make traffic stops safer for everyone involved.

Of course, there’s a flip side to this process. Checking that IDs are authentic will likely now require checking a number against a central database, which everyone who accepts IDs like bars and liquor stores will need access to. On balance, it’s still a good step towards making your wallet redundant, but the results of the pilot program sure will be interesting.

Chris Mills
Chris Mills News Editor

Chris Mills has been a news editor and writer for over 15 years, starting at Future Publishing, Gawker Media, and then BGR. He studied at McGill University in Quebec, Canada.