Driver's License on Your Phone? There's an App for That

The Iowa Department of Transportation is piloting a new program that'll eliminate the need for you to carry your old, plastic ID. Anyaberkut/Thinkstock/Morphotrust USA

Every time you leave the house, you probably do a mental check: Wallet, keys, phone. But there are apps like Samsung Pay that allow you to pay without using a physical credit card. And there are apps like Viper SmartStart that let you start your car remotely without using keys. If only you didn't have to carry your driver's license on you at all times, you could ditch your wallet and keys completely and just check: Phone.

Well, the future is now, and soon you'll be able to load a secure version of your driver's license onto your mobile device. MorphoTrust has launched a pilot project with the state of Iowa and its department of transportation to test its mDL (mobile driver license) in the real world.


MorphoTrust already handles the driver's licenses for more than 80 percent of the United States, so it's got plenty of practice making sure our plastic licenses are secure. The license on the mobile device has images of the front and back of your current license, and you can swipe between the two views. MorphoTrust has also included visible (and hidden) security measures baked into the mDLs being tested that allow for easy verification, and to make it more difficult to reproduce, too. The mDL uses a phone's PIN and fingerprint technologies to keep it safe, but it can also use facial recognition technology. In other words, to get the device to bring up your digital license, you'd first have to take a selfie that can then be matched by the software.

Using an mDL rather than a plastic driver's license would also save you those aggravating trips to the dreaded DMV. You could even change your name and address or update your organ donor status using the app. But remember, this is a two-way street — the DMV can make its own electronic changes just as easily, such as suspending or revoking your license.

The DMV could can also automatically update your mDL to clearly indicate that you're 21, making it easy for bouncers and bartenders to verify your now-legal-adult status. They'll be able to scan the mDL and get instant (and clear) information from it rather than squinting at that horrible picture and then at you in dim nightclub lighting.

The mDL is still in the early stages of testing, however, with only 15 Iowa state employees currently using it on iOS devices.