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Delaware Plans To Be First State With Digital Licenses

Delaware intends to be the first state to offer virtual driver’s licenses accessed through a secure smartphone app.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Photo Credit: Flickr

“We’d like to go first,” said Jennifer Cohan, director of the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles and the governor’s nominee for secretary of transportation.

“Smartphones are becoming more and more a digital wallet. Eventually, the last piece of plastic I need to carry around with me is a driver’s license.”

The Delaware DMV would not eliminate hard plastic licenses. Customers would have the option of having a digital version, in addition to the “hard copy” of their license, officials said.

Last year, the state began allowing motorists to show electronic proof of insurance during traffic stops. Many consumers already use smartphone-based payment systems to avoid carrying cash or credit cards.

Lewes Police Chief Jeffrey Horvath raised questions about traffic stops where the driver presents a digital license on a smartphone. What if the driver’s phone has lost power? How does an officer seize the digital license after a drunken driving arrest, without taking the phone?

“If they legalize it in Iowa and Delaware and I travel to California, will the officer accept my digital license there? Would he have the equipment to scan, read it and verify it?” said Horvath, a board member of the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council.

Horvath also wondered how citizens would feel about officers taking the smartphone back to their patrol car to verify it in the state database.

Iowa envisions a corresponding mobile app for law enforcement officials’ phones to would read digital driver’s licenses, so the phone “never leaves your hand,” said Andrea Henry, director of strategic communications for the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Iowa is working with MorphoTrust on a feature that locks the motorist’s smartphone once the digital license is up on the screen, so that an officer wouldn’t be able to access other content on the device, she said.

In a prototype app built by MorphoTrust, the portrait of the ID holder rotates back and forth, not unlike photos in the fictional “Harry Potter” series, said Openshaw of MorphoTrust.

“We call it the ‘Harry Potter’ feature,” she said. “It’s a technology that’s very hard to duplicate, but will let the examiner know that it’s authentic.”

Cohan’s agency is set to meet with MorphoTrust reps next week to discuss logistics, including questions about ensuring the secure transmission of personal data and other issues, she said.

The development process would include reaching out to stakeholders such as federal and state law enforcement and an educational component for business entities statewide, Cohan noted.

“So far, what we’ve seen and been working with our vendor on is very promising,” Cohan said.

State officials say digital driver’s licenses won’t eliminate hard plastic licenses, but would give drivers more options and convenience.

Delaware Plans To Be First State With Digital Licenses.

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