The infancy of mobile driver’s licenses

More and more states are adopting mobile driver’s licenses that can be stored on a smartphone. Mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs) are available from Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, and may be available from additional states by the time you read this.

LA Wallet Louisiana Digital Driver’s License. lawallet.com.

For me, the two key benefits of mDLs are the following:

  • If you have your smartphone, you have your mDL. Since smartphones are becoming more of a necessary must-have item – and wallets are not – the presence of a driver’s license on a smartphone is beneficial. (Unless, of course, you’re the type of person who misplaces your smartphone.)
  • mDLs can be designed to show only the information that is necessary. If I want to enter a bar or other facility for people over 21, I don’t have to show the bouncer my weight, my address, or even my birthdate. I just have to show the bouncer that I’m over 21.

While mDLs are becoming available in more states, they are not fully mature yet.

  • They are only valid in the state where they were issued. You can’t show your Oklahoma mDL in California. (Well, I guess you CAN show it, but a Californian isn’t obligated to do anything.)
  • Even within the state of issue, they’re still not always valid. At least some states require you to carry your physical driver’s license while driving, even if you have an mDL. And you can’t present an mDL to airport security in Denver or any other city. (See the LA Wallet image above, which clearly states “NOT FOR FEDERAL IDENTIFICATION.” So even if Louisiana’s physical driver’s license is REAL ID compliant, its mDL isn’t.)

Part of the issue regarding acceptance of mDLs is that the standards are still evolving. One key standard, ISO/IEC FDIS 18013-5 (Personal identification — ISO-compliant driving licence — Part 5: Mobile driving licence (mDL) application), is still under development.

But these four states, and others, didn’t want to wait until the standards were fully approved, and their solutions were fully certified, before issuing mDLs. Louisiana’s LA Wallet solution was introduced back in July 2018. While none of the solutions by definition can claim compliance with ISO/IEC FDIS 18013-5, they are already providing benefits to the license holders in these four states.

How long will it be until all states, provinces, and territories support mDLs?

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