Iowa DOT Director Pitches Digital Driver’s Licenses

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Iowa Department of Transportation director is looking to make an update to driver’s licenses in the state – he wants to make them digital.

Paul Trombino says, “Essentially what you have here is a digitally encoded driver’s license that would be on your phone."

You'd download an application on your smart phone and the digital driver’s license could then replace your traditional license. Although, Trombino said Iowans would have the option of keeping the traditional paper license, using the digital version or using both.

A special feature on the digital license shows what looks like the driver's face rotating from side to side, always moving. Trombino said that allows for better security.

“It shows you it is real. It gives you a real perspective. There's a lot of ways for us to offer security features which I'm not going to prescribe today so that, we know it's the person,” says Trombino.

Trombino says he'll test out the digital licenses with his staff first before offering the public the choice to use them sometime next year.

He couldn't say what the startup cost for the state would be. But he thinks, eventually, it could save the state money as he expects it to be cheaper to maintain.


  • Bob

    as long as I’m carrying a wallet anyway, I’d just as soon have an ID to produce to armed men, that doesn’t say ‘system processing’ in a tense situation (such as being mis-identified as a suspect)

  • Riverrunner

    Perhaps I lack imagination, but I don’t understand why anyone would want a digital license. Sure it is one less card to carry around, but how much space does it take? Of course, if you were to lose your phone, the person who finds it would know where you live (so they could return it.)

      • Jameson

        Yeah because that is what I said, right? If you look over the past 10 years of which item (phone/drivers license) people have lost at a higher frequency, I would be willing to bet its the drivers license. $10 for a new one, or easily 100x or more for a new phone. Also, as someone who has grown into a higher position in the cell phone business the past 5 years I have seen very few cases of a phone being stolen. Less than the amount on 2 hands. Another amazing thing cell phones have going for them is a lock screen. If you create a smart enough pin, password, etc, it will be hard to crack and get into your phone.

  • Scott

    I’m very excited for this. This is not only more convenient but also a more secure option. For years I’ve been paying for things in stores with my phone (thanks Android Google Wallet), so I’m very excited to get one step closer to not having to carry around a wallet.

    Physical cards are incredibly insecure. Pretend your wallet/purse was lost or stolen. Anybody who picked it up would have instant access to all of your information simply by looking at it. Now pretend all of this data was instead saved in your phone. Your phone ‘should’ have a locking passcode on it, which protects all of the data inside of it from strangers. A further security measure in all recent smart phones is the ability to erase all of the data on them remotely .

    I’m not going to be blindly optimistic that the DoT will make the perfect phone app, but the idea is most definitely the future.

  • aightball

    While I know this is perhaps the way of the future, I’m not for it. If you lose your phone and don’t have it locked with a pass-code (mine wipes it after 10 tries) you’re screwed. Plus, I don’t want to hand someone my phone so they can check my ID. Officers, while always polite to me, take your license back to their cars and I’m more comfortable having my phone on me. On top of that, some people don’t have or want a smart phone. My parents are older and don’t have or need or want a smart phone, so they’d taking the paper option. The state of Iowa is full of folks over 70 who don’t have computers let alone smart phones…think this might be a bad idea.

    • Scott

      They already explicitly said that this is in no way mandatory. But choice is a wonderful thing. The fact that they’re looking towards the future is good sign.

      Once this is in place there’s nothing stopping them from also offering police officers, liquor store cashiers or anybody else that needs to check the validity of an ID the option of simply carrying a small reader that you would just touch to the phone that would then report back the legal information that would be printed on the ID. This would provide an even greater step of security over fake ID usage (sorry kids).

      • aightball

        If they had a reader, I might consider it. I don’t like handing over my phone and then letting someone walk away with it. And you are correct that the article stated it was not mandatory…that was an oversight on my part when I commented. So, I guess we’ll see how this goes. And should it come day become mandatory, I guess we’ll live with it. In the mean time, I’ll take the option of say “no thanks, not right now” =)

  • Linny

    I think it’s a stupid idea especially for those of us that don’t have a smart phone or don’t even have a cell phone.

  • Curtis Highland

    Definitely one of the dumbest ideas put forth by the IDOT. If you have to hand the police your phone for ID, then you won’t be able to film them doing illegal searches, manufacturing probable causes, etc. Stick with plastic and keep your phone in your hand.

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