Technology has disrupted and changed a variety of industries and experiences, but most wouldn’t put a trip to the DMV in the category of modernized experiences.
But the industry is working on a variety of changes, focused on big data, mobile technology and bringing documents online that could speed up the process of getting or renewing a driver’s license. This week, experts focused on everything from law enforcement, to licensing to vehicle titles gathered in Seattle for a conference put on by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Association. At the event, there were several panels focused on improving technology in the industry.
The first step to better tech at the DMV and in vehicle licensing and regulations is data. There is a ton of it out there these days, said Christopher Young, principle consultant at Rockville, Md.-based consulting and IT services company Infosys Public Services. But do law enforcement agencies and DMV branches have the capacity to analyze and learn from available information?
“We are in this age where we have a lot of data, so how do we actually leverage that data to be more efficient from a DMV perspective?” Young said.
Young in his presentation listed a number of hypothetical ways that the proliferation of data, along with smarter cars could manifest themselves. A couple of recommendations include making car GPS mandatory, and changing the way we start cars to a combination of keys and identification, such as a driver’s license.
Young envisioned situations where a car could issue an electronic ticket to a driver who is speeding frequently, or require a passenger to flash their license if someone with only a learner’s permit is driving.
Among all the tech that could impact licensing, one of the most disruptive could be the mobile driver’s license. Liz Marshall, of identity services company MorphoTrust, said people are ready to put their driver’s licenses on their phones.
The company recently embarked on a survey of more than 3,800 smartphone owners and found that 80 percent of respondents were interested in the concept. Many of them liked the idea of being able to use their phones to renew their licenses and take out the inconvenience of going to the DMV.
“People just want to do business on their smartphone,” Marshall said. “They want everything there. Their email is there, their banking is there, and they want to do business with the DMV on their smartphone.”
GeekWire got a demonstration of MorphoTrust mobile driver’s license prior to the panel. Unlocking the license requires taking a selfie, which is matched with an image on file. Users also have the ability to decide and change how much information they want to display. That means bar patrons who don’t want to hand all of their personal information over to a bouncer or bartender can hide pretty much everything but their birth date.
Once all the information is uploaded to the app, it is kept on the users’ phones, not in a MorphoTrust database or a third-party server. That keeps the information from being a target for hackers, and circumvents a potential problem of not being able to pull up an ID an area without great cell service.
Of course there are challenges to such a drastic change to one of the most important pieces of identification we have. Chief among them, mobile driver’s licenses are not a legally acceptable form of ID in most states, but the technology is starting to gain a foothold.
Iowa’s Department of Transportation said just this week that residents should be able to download licenses in 12 to 18 months. Iowa has been working with MorphoTrust since 2016 on a pilot program to test the technology. The Des Moines Register reports at least nine other states are considering the concept.
We reached out to Washington state’s Department of Licensing to see if the state is looking at mobile driver’s licenses, but we haven’t heard back.
There’s also a segment of the population where these kinds of licenses don’t make sense. Some people can’t afford a smartphone, others don’t want one, and some will inevitably prefer to have physical forms of ID.
As a response, Marshall envisions that mobile driver’s licenses would be an opt-in technology, rather than the primary form of ID.
On the customer service end, the perception of the DMV remains that of taking a number and waiting all day. Not a fun experience. And, people don’t go to the DMV often, so a single experience can stick in someone’s mind for years.
Jeff Green is CEO of Qmatic, a customer experience technology company. He said that companies get the best responses from customers when they are open and transparent, and make the customer service process simple and accessible through a variety of devices.
“Your customer wants to be served, wherever they are, whenever they are and however they want it to be,” he said.