Iowa Drivers Can Download Licenses on Smartphones in 2018

May 24, 2017

Iowa residents should be able to start downloading their driver’s licenses onto their smartphones by late next year, according to state officials.

The Iowa Department of Transportation conducted a pilot program with about 100 state employees who used state-issued iPhones last year, The Des Moines Register reported. The program is set to expand statewide within 12 to 18 months.

Iowa was among the first states in the country to explore digital driver’s licenses as an alternative to traditional plastic licenses. At least nine other states are now considering the concept.

“We definitely need to be able to accept this as proof of identity and driving privilege where necessary,” said Mark Lowe, director of the department. “Our law enforcement should be able to interact with it, and we should be able to use it to rent a car, get a hotel room, buy cigarettes, buy alcohol – things where you are typically expected to provide some proof of identity.”

The state conducted the test with help from MorphoTrust USA, a contractor that provides identity-related products and services. Lowe said the agency worked with Gartner Inc., a technology consultant, on plans to award a contract to develop a fully functional mobile driver’s license for the public.

Lowe said Iowa’s plans have even sparked interest from abroad, including Australia, Ireland, Wales, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Canada. He said there’s more of a focus on using the technology for passports in countries where people frequently cross borders.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa has had serious concerns about how the use of the smartphone as a driver’s license may affect privacy rights, said Rita Bettis, the organization’s legal director. Bettis said issues of concern include individuals’ rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures of their phone and its contents during traffic stops.

Software developers and transportation department officials have said the development of improved technology could help address some privacy issues involving law enforcement. For example, they said driver’s license information could be transmitted to compatible software in a laptop in a patrol car or an officer’s mobile device.

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