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Are smartphones essential to the future of driving?

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Are smartphones essential to the future of driving?

A new pilot program being run in the U.S. state of Iowa could herald a new future for driving for all of us. It’s a modest program, costing only $40,000 and running with only 15 people, but if it works, it could change the way we manage our driving forever.

So what is this program?

Iowa have been testing a new iOS app as part of an “mDL program.” mDL stands for “mobile driver’s licence” and is based around a smartphone. Drivers take a selfie and send it to the Iowa Department of Transportation who verify it against their records. The driver’s licence is then verified, digitized and made available to the app.

So if a cop needs to pull you over, you get a ping on your phone which is a request for you to make your licence details available to the cop. You authenticate and make it available. If you are liable for a ticket, you can choose to pay it there and there through a mobile payment. All within a couple of minutes and without a piece of paper in sight.

Run since August, the program has been something of a success. The new technology allows instant updates to personal details, lowers administration costs of managing licencing and could potentially allow other entities to use the driver’s licence as a means of preventing identity fraud.

Done right, this could make traffic enforcement faster, simpler and easier for all involved. If course, they key here is the term ‘done right.’

All about trust
If this kind of mobile technology is managed correctly, it really could be a game changer. Verification could be built into the system to allow stores, bars and organizations to verify identity within seconds. Want to speed up carding in a bar or reduce the market for fake I.D.s? Digitize them. The merchant can speed up an onerous task and be reasonably assured that the records are accurate. The state can charge a nominal fee for such queries which can go towards improving the system.

However, as we know, our southern cousins are a paranoid lot and work would need to be done to create and maintain trust in such a system. The potential risk of hacks, misuse, tracking and other nefarious activities will likely play on the mind of users for a while but done right, there’s that term again, it could really could make driving easier for all of us.

The system is still in pilot phase right now and other states are planning their own. With backing from Morpho­Trust USA, who wrote the program and who manage databases for Homeland Security, there is everything here to make life easier on all of us. Only time will tell how successful it becomes.

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