Driver’s license: From wallet to phone?

State Rep. Terry Canales wants to take Texas driver’s licenses from your wallet to your phone.

The Edinburg lawmaker introduced legislation that directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to take a closer look at the technology needed to create digital driver’s licenses.

Canales’ legislation ultimately passed as an amendment to Senate Bill 1934 and became law in September 2015. It directed the DPS to submit a report to the legislature that includes details of their findings and recommendations by Sept. 1.

“When you consider the fact that DPS already allows you to present your insurance with your smartphone — and the majority of people with smartphones use their smart phone for banking — this is not a far-fetched idea,” Canales said. “For the most part, what my legislation does, it spurs DPS to get on the ball — so to speak — with the implementation on technology which is actually already taking place in other places.”

Iowa and Delaware were the first two states to look into digital licenses, Canales said in a prepared statement. Arizona, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Dakota and Tennessee are also looking at similar measures.

“The objective was that we stay abreast and at the forefront of technology,” the state representative said. “We don’t want to be last.”

DPS conducted a request for information and five vendors responded, DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said. Those vendors are Hypori, Global Enterprise Technologies Corporation, Morpho Trust Technology, Marp Technology and Oberthur Technologies Technology.

Canales spoke to the vendors about potential ways to secure digital licenses.

“Some use biometrics, which means the use of fingerprints, to access it,” Canales said. “Also, it allows for 3-D imaging. So law enforcement, when they actually look at it, get a 3-D picture of your face — which is pretty advanced and a pretty secure feature knowing it is who it is.”

There are also features that prevent police officers from accessing anything other than your license on your phone.

“So he can’t look through your messages or your, you know, pictures or anything like that,” Canales said. “It’s basically locked into the driver’s license until you physically, biometrically, unlock it. It protects both the law enforcement and the person with the phone.”

DPS will submit a report that will address the feasibility of altering state requirements, potential risks to personal information, a survey of similar legislation in other states, staff findings and recommendations, Vinger said.

Canales said it may take years for the digital licenses to be implemented — if at all — and did not foresee them as a requirement.

“It will be an option because there’s a lot of people that obviously can’t afford a smartphone,” he said. “I think that as a matter of practice, DPS will always issue you a physical card because if your phone is dead or something happens, there’s a lot of pitfalls that can occur with a digital driver’s license that a physical one in your possession would obviously remedy.”

If anything, it will help ensure Texans always carry their licenses.

“My driver’s license is usually the last thing I think about,” Canales joked. “But I never forget my phone.”

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