Scores of states across the U.S. have followed each other in a domino effect to create a digital mobile driving license (mDL) underpinned by existing levels of standards.
In tandem with the rate and scale of innovation to driving licences, which has accelerated rapidly, a murky state of regulation and the REAL ID Act of 2005 have led the Department of Homeland Security to temporarily drop driving licence requirements.
This is amid a clashing state of interests around regulation for driving licences as digital identification as well as physical licences are now an option for drivers.
More states are creating their own mDLs in accordance with the digital age, however practical processes may still be applicable during a period of transition, such as submitting personal information, identity documents and facial biometrics to be stored centrally in a national or regional database.
The REAL ID Act of 2005 also faces privacy concerns.
The revised DHS regulations are highlighted in the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs report 2023 on the Biden government’s plans to reduce the extensive requirements for driving licence applications.
A key concern for Biden’s administration therefore seems to be ensuring citizens can use seamless public services while curbing 21 million hours of admin on the public.
The White House report states: “In addition to these examples, DHS is also anticipating and addressing potential burdens that members of the public might face, as exemplified by rulemaking around mobile drivers licenses”.
The adoption of mobile driving licences, which can be stored in digital wallets and on smart devices, has sharply inclined.
The REAL ID Act was implemented in 2005 which orders federal agencies to only accept driving licences which comply with its ID requirements. But last year, the DHS decided to withdraw the full enforcement of requirements until May 2025 whilst a lack of REAL ID standards for driving licences murky the waters.
A back-peddling on the REAL ID requirements will allow for acceptance of mDLs that meet “certain security and data integrity requirements”, DHS added.
The states of North Dakota and Georgia have recently adopted mDLs.
There is not enough inclusion of digital mobile licences under existing regulation considering the rate of adoption amongst the public and government.
The REAL ID Act, as of changes made in 2020, does include equity and recognition for digital and physical IDs but it is not robust enough.