Iowa Planning New Digital Driver's License; Minnesota Isn't Interested

This is not happening any time soon in Minnesota

This is not happening any time soon in Minnesota

Earlier this week the Iowa Department of Transportation announced it's creating an app that would allow people to pull up their driver's license on their smartphone, instead of having to physically carry around a little card everywhere.

The app, which is due to be released sometime next year, would be the first of its kind in the nation. The Minnesota Department of Transportation said yesterday it's not interested in piggybacking on this cutting-edge technology.

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"We don't have any plans like that in Minnesota; it's really not one of our priorities," said Doug Neville with the state's Department of Public Safety. "In fact, it would have to take an act from the Legislature for that to happen. Everything the Department of Vehicle Services does is laid out by state law."

That's too bad, because Iowa's "digital driver's license" sounds awesome. Under the plan Iowans would sign up online for the app and activate it with a secure pin sent to them.

Once the app is installed, the only way to unlock it will be through some method of biometric verification.

"We can capture a thumbprint or a fingerprint or we could use the camera to capture a facial image or an iris scan. Even voice recognition is a possibility," said Mark Lowe, director of the Iowa DOT's Motor Vehicle Division. Lowe added that his department does not need legislative approval to move forward with the plan.

The app will also include a lockdown mode, so a police officer will not be able to access any other part of a phone when handed a digital driver's license.

"You simply would hit a button that locks everything out. It doesn't allow any messages to come through or access to any other part of your phone until you unlock it," said Lowe.

"We're not trying to replace the physical license. The physical license would still be the primary means of carrying a license. We don't want to force anybody to use the digital license and recognize not everybody has a mobile device or isn't comfortable using a mobile device for stuff like this," he added.

Iowa is working with MorphoTrust to develop the app, which is the same vendor the state already uses to handle driver's license data.

Note to every state legislator who bloviated about the importance of innovation and technology during campaign season: Let's jump on this.

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