The number of U.S. states offering mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs) is growing rapidly, with five already implemented and three more official digital IDs expected by early 2022. According to the Associated Press, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased Americans’ demand for contactless forms of ID, further driving the push for mDLs in the U.S.
The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators describes mDLs this way: “mDL technology takes identity out of the wallet, and into the 21st Century.” mDL technology requires a Smartphone, a valid driver’s license (or state-issued ID card), and a downloadable app.
Convenience, privacy, and security
For someone who carries his Smartphone everywhere, what could be easier than having his ID at his fingertips? Beyond convenience, though, most mDLs allow the holder to set privacy controls to display only what is necessary in specific situations. For example, to prove that you are old enough to purchase or drink alcohol, you can choose to show a bartender your photo and date of birth, while blocking your home address, height, and weight data fields. Security features allow the mDL holder to unlock the app with a password, facial recognition software, or fingerprint memory.
Until digital forms of ID gain wide acceptance across the country, mDLs are considered a “companion” form of ID, reinforced by the corresponding physical driver’s license. Until this new technology is more broadly accepted, individuals should always carry the hard copy of their driver’s license as backup.
What states currently offer mDLs?
MyColorado and Louisiana’s “LA Wallet” do not meet REAL ID standards but can be used to prove one’s identity at participating retailers and restaurants. Louisiana State Police accept LA Wallet, and, in Colorado, a growing number of law enforcement agencies in the state accept the app as a valid form of ID. And LA Wallet now offers the option to add an electronic version of one’s COVID-19 vaccination records to the app.
Florida, Iowa, and Utah are expected to launch mDLs in late 2021 or early 2022.
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA)
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