What started off as an idea to use your phone to show your driver’s license has snowballed into an international movement to create a universal form of electronic identification that can be used anywhere in the world to confirm identity and convey driving privileges.
You may remember back in 2015, former Iowa DOT Director Paul Trombino and about 100 other Iowa Department of Transportation employees who held state-issued mobile devices were involved in a pilot project to test the idea of a phone application that could serve as legal identification and a mobile driver’s license (mDL). The Iowa pilot spawned discussion all over the United States and spread to other nations, as well.
The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the governing body of all North American licensing agencies, sets standards for plastic identification cards and also has a committee dedicated to studying and standardizing electronic identification. Members of these two committees joined efforts to study and report on many aspect associated with an mDL.
Paul Steier, director of the Iowa DOT’s Bureau of Investigation and Identity Protection, chairs the AAMVA Card Design Standards Committee and also the combined group assembled to study the mDL concept. Steier said, “In Iowa, we developed the first pilot, but soon several states were exploring options, too. As soon as we started looking at putting a driver’s license on a phone, it became clear that this was bigger than any pilot project. With the Iowa pilot, we opened the floodgate and pretty quickly realized this would have major implications worldwide. It was clear this needed guidance at the federal level and more research on the far-reaching impacts mDL is going to have on society.”
The mDL working group is made up of driver licensing and information technology officials from several states, Canadian provinces, and Underwriter’s Laboratories, the industry partner involved with further developing the mDL concept. Steier said, “Arjan Geluk, the representative from Underwriter Laboratories, is from the Netherlands. His company has a successful history with research into mobile banking applications that could translate into the mobile driver’s license environment.”
The mDL working group has a website with updates on its work that includes the “Mobile Driver’s License Functional Needs Whitepaper” to address what an mDL needs to do. Steier says while the Iowa pilot project has ended, an ongoing pilot in Virginia using an mDL as identification in liquor stores is moving forward. Steier said, “As part of the pilot, the folks in Virginia are working on legislation to allow an mDL as a valid form of identification. Once they have their legislation written, it could serve as a model for other states.”
He continued, “The working group is designed to explore different options and have a set of standards laid out for states or countries to use when designing an mDL so when the mDL becomes a reality, it can be universally accepted and authenticated.”
As Steier noted, the mDL isn’t just an American idea. The AAMVA working group is talking about how to make it valid worldwide, much like a passport. He said, “We are talking a lot about passport standards and working within the International Standards Organization (ISO) for guidance. This independent group sets standards for identification quality that is accepted by 162 member nations.”
During the first week of November, the mDL working group met in Des Moines to continue refining standards and to learn more about mDL projects being worked on worldwide. Steier said, “Little did we know the floodgate that we opened when Iowa started talking about putting your driver’s license on your phone. The cooperation between states and even internationally has been positive and the development is moving along very well. The question now isn’t if this is going to happen, but when the mDL will be accepted as standard identification throughout the world.”
AAMVA mDL working group members