iPhone could double as driver’s license

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Sample mDL
One state is testing replacing drivers licenses with a mDL app.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

iPhones already replace credit cards, and a pilot program is exploring the next logical step: a digital drivers licence.

Delaware just began testing a mobile driver license (mDL) with some state residents, checking if a smartphone application can be kept secure while offering real advantages over plastic cards.

Security is an important goal of digital drivers licenses. Currently, to confirm they’re of legal drinking age, people have to show a card with their address and birthday, possibly opening them to identity theft. A mDL confirms that the user is of legal age without revealing any other information about them.

Other mDL advantages

A mobile drivers licence app will also make law enforcement safer. The information in a mDL can be accessed by police before they walk up to the vehicle during a traffic stop.

Accessing the mDL app requires a PIN or facial recognition. A plastic card can be read by anyone, including identity thieves.

The pilot program needs to address concerns about hacking because not all devices are as secure as iPhone. This is probably the issue most likely preventing wider rollouts of licenses on smartphones around the U.S.

Delaware’s Secretary of Transportation Jennifer Cohan said in a statement, “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.”

During testing, the digital licenses will be carried by just 200 state employees and interested residents.