Iowa to pilot digital driver’s license

Iowa is about to test a smartphone driver’s license program that could make the state the first to allow motorists to carry their driver’s license on their phone instead of on a physical card while driving.

Iowa is poised to become the first state in the nation to pilot a smartphone driver’s license program that – as it says – will allow motorists to host their driver’s license on their phone, eliminating the need to carry a physical one with them while driving.

“We are really moving forward on this,” Iowa Department of Transportation Director Paul Trombino said on Tuesday during a state agency budget hearing. “The way things are going, we may be the first in the nation.”

A group of state employees that travels frequently for work will pilot the program in the next six months, and the state Department of Transportation will determine the next steps for wider use, including giving Iowans the option to try to the smartphone license while waiting for their plastic version to arrive in the mail.

Trombino said people will still be able to stick a traditional plastic driver’s license in their wallet or purse if they choose, but the new digital license, which he described as “an identity vault app,” will be accepted by Iowa law enforcement officers during traffic stops and by security officers screening travelers at Iowa’s airports.


The plan is to make the new app high secure with motorists needing to use a pin number for verification along with other security protocols.

Iowa is already one of more than 30 states that allow motorists to show electronic proof of insurance during a traffic stop. Rather than digging through clutter in your glove compartment for an insurance card, you can simply hand the law enforcement officer your mobile phone.

The digital driver’s license is just one example of the Iowa DOT’s push towards expanded use of new technology.

The transportation agency has already installed dashboard cameras on snowplows, and it is expanding a program for “paperless construction projects.” The agency is also expanding driver’s license kiosk locations, and it has experimented with a new method for accelerated bridge construction through modular construction.

The idea of identification cards being held in a “mobile wallet” has picked up steam in state governments over the recent months. A number of states have been using this concept for lower-level identifications, such as a fishing license.


The move to including driver’s licenses is expected, but also has larger security concerns associated with it as that card is used as much for personal identification as it is for recognizing someone’s ability to operate a vehicle.

That is one of the main issues that the department will be watching as the security protocols – not only the ability to keep personal information safe – but the ability to make sure licenses cannot be digitally created or altered as to illegally change someone’s identity for criminal activity.

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