Iowa Could Become The First State To Offer Digital Driver's Licenses

In the future, you might not need to carry a plastic driver’s licence. Instead, you’ll be able to display it on your phone.

This will soon be a reality for at least one state. The Iowa Department of Transportation is creating a free app to let Iowans display their driver’s licenses digitally, the Des Moines Register reports.

DOT Director Paul Trombino said the app will be accepted by police at traffic stops and at airport screenings. “It is basically your licence on your phone,” he said. The app will be available sometime next year. The new app would make
Iowa the first state in the country that accepts digital ID cards.

There are 37 states — including Iowa — that already let drivers show proof of insurance on their phone, according to Micaela Isler, assistant VP at Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

Of course, this also presents some challenges: There are the legal questions, which the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble raises: “What if drivers wish to use the phone to record their interactions with the police officer? What if they want to make a call or send a text during the traffic stop — perhaps to a lawyer? What if the phone has a lock mechanism that would lock officers out before they are able to scan the licence bar code?”

Noble also points out that this whole thing hinges on having a phone — a smartphone — that’s charged. What happens if your phone dies and you can’t present identification?

There’s also the fact that Trombino says the app will use a PIN code to keep it secure. As Popular Science’s Dan Moren points out, biometric identification — especially on late-model iPhones with fingerprint readers — would be far more secure.

For many some, it’s harder to forget to carry a phone than a small rectangular piece of plastic, which is why it’s a great idea. But if Iowans remain unconvinced, Trombino says they will still be able to stick with old-school plastic licenses if they want.

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