Sep 6, 2023 - News

California rolls out pilot for digital driver's license program

Photo of three phones each with a screen showing the CA DMV app and how to scan your driver's license

Image: Courtesy of California Department of Motor Vehicles

Some California residents can now carry a digital mobile driver's license (mDL) under a new app launched by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Driving the news: The free pilot, which is limited to the first 1.5 million people who sign up, is intended to allow quick and secure proof of identity while giving people more control over what information they share.

State of play: About two dozen airports currently accept the mDL for TSA PreCheck, including SFO, SJC and LAX. You can also use it to buy age-restricted products at select retail locations in Sacramento via an in-app feature.

  • "Usage is not tracked, and no data leaves your device without your consent," the DMV says on its website.
  • It's built to work with security measures such as Face ID, fingerprint and pin codes. The goal is to lower the potential for fraud and identity theft.

How it works: If you are one of the 1.5 million participants, you'll want to first download the CA DMV Wallet app onto your smartphone.

  • Once you open the app, log in to your MyDMV account or create one.
  • Scan your physical driver's license or ID card as instructed. The data will be stored in the app and available to access anytime.
  • Instead of handing over your phone, you'll use a unique QR code anytime you need your identity verified — it will only share necessary information like your name, photo and card's expiration date.

Yes, but: Participants should still carry a physical driver's license or state-issued ID since it is currently authorized for limited usage.

  • Law enforcement agencies, state governments and businesses are not yet accepting the mDL.
  • It's also only accessible on certain models of iPhones and Androids at the moment.

Of note: The DMV promises that it will not permanently retain personal data other than your phone number and an encrypted photo of your driver's license or ID card.

The big picture: Utah, Iowa and Maryland currently offer similar digital ID programs.

  • TSA also accepts mobile driver's licenses and ID cards for residents of Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and Maryland via Apple Wallet at certain airports.

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