UK DVLA Eyes Mobile Drivers’ Licenses for Learner Drivers

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By Sam Gazeley | 4Q 2021 | IN-6297

As global governments increasingly look to digitize their services, drivers’ licenses and other forms of government ID are the next big consideration.

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DVLA Driving Towards Mobile as an ID Form-Factor


The UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is planning to release a digital driver’s license for provisional license holders, with a view to extend the solution to full driver’s licenses should the project prove successful and widely adopted.

The project reinforces the intention of the DVLA to digitize its services for an increasingly digital ecosystem, bringing legacy drivers services into the modern age. This will include improving the digital process of applying for a provisional driving licence as well as other driving licence applications, with a view to extend this further in the future.

There is no current date for the rollout of the digital driver’s license, with the project having seen significant delays due to processing speed at the DVLA in recent years. The project will likely see good uptake with the UK sporting a high penetration rate of smartphones in the population. While the issuance of mobile driver’s license is being positioned as the UK breaking the shackles of the European Union (EU) and moving into post-Brexit freedoms, the fact remains that the EU is already seeking the incorporation of mobile Drivers’ licences (mDLs) into its digital wallet.

On a global scale, from mobile driver’s licenses in Australia and Saudi Arabia to digital ID systems for accessing e-government services in Austria, Germany, Estonia, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Azerbaijan, governments around the world are making progress toward the digitization of citizen credentials.

mDLs Not Just a Trend for the Western World


The mDL solution that the UK is planning to release will follow the global paradigm of digital driver’s license; that is, having it as a companion to the physical document, as opposed to replacing the legacy polycarbonate driver’s license. The solution will leverage proprietary Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) digital wallet solutions, such as the Apple Wallet, which is already capable of containing boarding passes, credit, debit, gift, and discount cards. It is a natural extension to expand this to citizen credentials and would provide a degree of convenience for drivers.

This move echoes the announcement in July from the European Union, with new regulations following the electronic Identification and Trust Services (eIDAS), changing the way citizens in the EU use and manage their digital identities. Plans were announced for a digital wallet which would allow users, through personal smartphone devices, to authenticate their identity digitally and store digital versions of other identity credentials, such as driving licences and access government services for any EU member. There is a clear trend in Europe now for contemporary digital identity solutions, enabling government services to be accessed 24/7 and removing in-person contact as much as possible as the world looks to move into a post-COVID era. This is being supported by mobile OEMs expanding their individual wallet solutions to accommodate the storage of citizen credentials in a secure manner, easing the rollout of digital identity solutions.

This is not just a trend in Europe. The New South Wales (NSW) government of Australia has already begun the rollout of digital driving licences as a companion to the physical driver’s license. It was announced in May 2021 that the mDL project had reached three million registrations within the Service NSW app, approximately 53% of all license holders. The state launched its digital driver’s licenses to public availability in late 2019, and while legally on par with the physical document, license-holders are instructed to carry their physical license as a companion.

The US Follows Suit as Governments Look post-COVID


Outside of Europe, Apple announced on September 1st, 2021 that it is working with a number of states across the US, aiming to roll out the ability for their residents to securely add their driver’s license or state ID to the Apple Wallet on their smartphones and Apple Watch. The first states to introduce this solution to citizens will be Arizona and Georgia, followed by Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah. The intention is for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to enable airport security checkpoints at partnered airports as the first locations where citizens can utilize their driver’s license or state ID in Wallet for the purpose of identity validation.

This rollout comes part and parcel of mobile OEM movements towards transitioning Government ID applications and credentials from the physical form-factor to secure digital wallets. It is expected that, should this prove popular and see strong uptake, other states will soon join the wave of credential digitization that is growing in impetus across the Western world.

There can be no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has asked governments the question of how to reduce the risk of in-person contact and digitize services. Having extended to the citizen credentials arena, touchless services and digital/mobile wallet solutions seem the perfect fit for a drive toward contactless experiences, with new pilots and announcements being made on an almost monthly basis. What will also be key is the true effect of the impending chipset shortage; whether demand can be met on the Integrated Circuit (IC) supplier side for the rollout of government ID credentials, or whether there will be a shortfall. It is apparent the chipset shortage will affect markets such as payment cards severely. Though the Government ID market has seen a degree of prioritization among smart card vendors and IC vendors alike, the prioritization of higher Active Security Processor (ASP) chipsets could see lower revenue opportunities passed over as ecosystem players look to cover lost revenue. The solution then, instead of a physical credential program, could be to look towards digital and mobile identity solutions, leveraging devices that already have strong penetration rates in many countries and driving citizen identity into the modern era.  



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