Iowa Digital Driver’s Licenses Will Have to Wait Until 2020

DES MOINES, Iowa -- The idea to bring digital driver's licenses to the state, is still just that, an idea. The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) first introduced the concept in 2014, and although they are closer, officials still aren't ready to launch the new technology just yet.

At last check, the digital driver's licenses were supposed to launch this year, but now Iowa DOT Director Mark Lowe says it probably won't be until the summer of 2020 before Iowa's over 2.3 million licensed drivers can access their ID via cell phone.

“We've looked at a much more robust solution that will focus more on device to device transactions as well as online transactions, where you're not even present but you're doing something online like filing a tax return, purchasing something, or opening a bank account. So that's one key difference. We're looking for a more full solution which takes just a little more time,” Lowe said.

That full solution includes limiting the information that is shared.

“For instance, they don't really need to see your address, but they do need to know you're old enough to purchase alcohol. We would also be able to generate codes for sharing as well as secure and encrypted messages for sharing information, rather than just sort of turning over your license and letting people see that. So it's a longer-term vision that was different than what we first saw,” Lowe said.

The Iowa DOT also recently hired an outside security firm, Underwriters Laboratories, to test not only functionality but also security to make sure any worries of privacy rights are squashed.

“The power in this is not just putting a picture of your license on your phone if that's all we were doing we'd be done with it a long time ago. The power is in being able to share the information and limit the information shared for what the transaction [deems] necessary, whether it's in person or online and do it in a very secure and encrypted way,” Lowe said.

Lowe says what they are creating alongside the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators should not just work in Iowa, but wherever you go.

A few years back the Iowa DOT was saying our state would be the first in the country to have something like this, but that's not the case anymore. Now Louisiana already has its own version of a digital ID and Oklahoma is about to offer a version to the public. But for Lowe, he said it's not about being first, but doing it right.

“What I’m very pleased with is whether we are first or not, we have been a leader consistently the last four years and the work that we did then really drove that national conversation,” Lowe said. “So now we have multiple states, and even other countries, moving this concept together.”

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