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Want a digital driver license? Utah begins a pilot project to explore the idea

The Driver License Division says mobile identification cards could be more convenient and offer Utahns more privacy.

(Photo courtesy Utah Department of Public Safety) The Utah Department of Public Safety is set to soon launch a new pilot project that will explore the use of digital driver licenses, or a state identification card that can be stored on your phone. The Driver License Division says mobile identification cards could be more convenient and offer Utahns more privacy.

The days of rooting around in your wallet for an ID when you go to the bank, buy an alcoholic drink at a restaurant or go to the liquor store could be coming to an end in Utah.

The Utah Department of Public Safety is set to soon launch a new pilot project that will explore the use of digital driver licenses, or a state identification card that can be stored on your phone. The program will begin with 100 participants, with plans to expand to 10,000 — including the broader public — later this year.

The Driver License Division says the contactless mobile driver licenses will be more convenient in a 21st century world and that they will also enhance privacy by minimizing the amount of information someone has to share.

“Unlike your physical card, with mobile ID you do not have to hand over the entire card and all your data,” the division noted on a webpage devoted to frequently asked questions about the digital driver licenses. “The liquor store cashier does not need to know where you live, just that you are above the legal age.”

The ID isn’t just a photo or digital replica of a driver license, which are easily photoshopped, the division says. Instead, Utah’s digital driver licenses would be stored in an encrypted app with other security measures to reduce the potential for fraud or identity theft. The app would be protected by a PIN code, face match or fingerprint.

Businesses like banks or restaurants would be able to use technology to verify the “integrity and authenticity” of an ID through the division’s information database. That could be done through a QR code, a contactless payment reader or even over bluetooth, according to the division.

While other states are also exploring digital driver licenses, Utah is the first in the nation to incorporate industry standards around “privacy, security, interoperability, and authenticity,” the division said in a news release.

“Our Driver License Division is committed to working with residents and stakeholders to implement a solution which provides the highest value to Utahns: one which is accepted anywhere, provides enhanced privacy, security and personal control,” Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson said in the release.

The Utah Legislature passed a bill setting in motion the pilot project during the 2019 legislative session. Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan and the bill’s sponsor, said at the time that an electronic driver license wouldn’t necessarily replace the physical copy in all cases but noted their importance at a time when Utahns are increasingly using mobile-based payment systems in lieu of cash and credit cards.

“The reason, basically, to carry a wallet these days is because you have to have a driver’s license to drive,” Fillmore said.

The Driver License Division will share the results of the pilot project with the state Legislature, which will ultimately decide whether to implement mobile driver licenses statewide. If so, the division said Utahns could continue to have the option to receive a physical card.

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