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Digital drivers’ licences

Four US jurisdictions are piloting digital drivers’ licences and Australia is also on the road to digital transformation in licences.

Salsa Digital 27 June 2017

Going digital

Many government services have gone digital over the years, and one of the next ones set to take off is digital licences, specifically drivers’ licences. Under this system, your driving licence would be a digital version on your smartphone instead of a card in your wallet.

US trial

This month, four US jurisdictions will start a three-month trial of digital drivers’ licences. The trial will take place in Colorado, Idaho, Maryland and Washington DC. The US pilot is being rolled out to a sample of government employees and their families.

The tech is part of a collaboration with Amsterdam-based digital security company Gemalto, who received US$2 million in US federal funding in August 2016 from the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The digital licences are being trialled as both proof of age (e.g. for liquor stores) and for law enforcement. The law enforcement pilot involves the police officer handing test subjects a special card, which they scan and return to the officer. The data is then verified at the back-end via the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The digital drivers’ licences are encrypted and also need another authentication such as a PIN or fingerprint to open the app. To protect privacy, the system has been built so licence holders can hide certain information. The example given in the Government Technology article is that the test subjects can display their name and age but NOT their addresses, a handy feature when using the licence to get into a nightclub or buy alcohol.

In the US, digital drivers’ licences are being handled at the state level, however the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators has formed a digital drivers’ licences working group so perhaps national standards will be adopted in the future.

In Australia

Digital driving licences are also set to launch in NSW in 2019. Through Service NSW, residents can currently get three digital licences — their fishing licence, a licence for the Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) and Responsible Conduct of Gambling (RCG) Competency Cards.

VicRoads in Victoria has also examined digital drivers’ licences, as has WA, and a recent report flagged digital licences as coming to South Australia by the end of this year.

Salsa Digital’s take

Digital driving licences is a great example of digital transformation in government. While it’s difficult to say how quickly or extensively they will be adopted here in Australia, it seems certain they are the way of the future. However, it’s one area of government that’s handled at the state level (like the US), and clearly a national system or national technology that’s used by all states would be a better way to move forward...particularly if you need to show your driving licence in another state.

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