UK driving licence to go digital?

DVLA tweets image of a prototype digital smartphone licence that could make our lives much easier in the future

The humble driving licence may soon be incorporated into your smartphone, according to an image released on social network Twitter.

Oliver Morley, CEO of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), posted a photo of a smartphone displaying a digital driving licence, with the text ‘So here’s a little prototype of something we’re working on.’

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The image shows a basic driving licence card in the phone’s Wallet app – the same app usually used to store other personal items like travel tickets and digital payment cards.

Morley followed up the photograph with clarification that the system has no launch date as yet, and wouldn’t replace the existing photocard physical licence, though would serve to replace the now-obsolete paper counterpart.

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Increasing digitisation might be an area of concern in automotive technology, with less and less onus on drivers to control their own vehicles, but in the wider world of transport it’s the key to reduced paperwork and a smoother user experience.

Many of us are already familiar with digital plane tickets, near-field communication payment and online road tolling, all of which reduce the number of items we’re required to carry for any given journey, be that paper documents or cash.

Moving to a digital licence puts even more emphasis on smartphones as a toll ingrained into our everyday lives. Just last month, evo spoke to SEAT’s head of connectivity, Leyre Olavarria, about the company’s plans for digital car keys (full story in evo issue 223), which let you open and start your car with your phone, and even allow your car to be used by a friend via in-app requests.

SEAT’s digital key system also allows you to choose parking spaces via your phone, or pick up rental cars. An app-based driving license could expand on this – at the moment, some services require you to submit licence information via the long-winded online check code system, but simply pressing a button on a smartphone licence could do the same job.

There are security concerns with putting such personal data in a smartphone, but Morley calls security a ‘priority’ for the DVLA, and smartphone manufacturers themselves are already improving the security of such devices, with fingerprint recognition and passwords.

We’re also intrigued by the possibility of where the technology could go next – it’s easy to imagine advanced driving qualifications being incorporated into your digital licence, and digital signatures being added to your racing licence automatically after each meeting.

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