HB227 could make driver’s license a smartphone add-on


The Utah House of Representatives is set to vote on HB227 one more time, which will allow Utah drivers to have an electronic copy of their driver’s license saved on their smartphones.

The Utah Legislature closes its 2016 session March 10.
The Utah Legislature closes its 2016 session March 10.

Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley, wants electronic driver’s license to become an option for Utah drivers. This bill will allow the Driver License Division and the Department of Technology Services to study and report on having a driver’s license on a smartphone or electronic device.

Hall said Utah is “not quite there technologically.” He then said that “in this day and age, we are moving toward being able to do so many things electronically.”

Hall talked about the practical uses that smartphones offer today. With the ability to purchase anything online, transfer money and even have proof of insurance on smartphones, Hall believes many people will want the option of having a driver’s license on a smartphone.

A sample driver's license is displayed on a smartphone, which is a technology that could come to Utah residents. Legislators are exploring digital driver's licenses but haven't yet said what they might look like. (Maddi Driggs)
A sample driver’s license is displayed on a smartphone. Legislators are exploring digital driver’s licenses but haven’t yet said what they might look like. (Maddi Driggs)

BYU students had mixed reactions to the bill. Bryli Knell, a sophomore majoring in athletic training, was fascinated with the idea of having her driver’s license on her phone.

“I would love it,” she said. “It’s a smart idea (since) everyone has their phone with them.”

Justin Whitaker, a BYU sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering, finds the idea to be novel, yet still worries about hackers.

“Maybe I worry about it more than most people, but putting a driver’s license on a smartphone would give (hackers) more incentive to hack into phones,” he said. “It’s a danger I try to stay aware of … The less information I can keep on my computers, especially the Internet, the better.”

With regard to safety, Hall argued the electronic driver’s license is safer than having a plastic card.

“If you use a plastic card, anyone can try and use it,” Hall said. “But the app that would be on the phone would contain its own layer of security (like a pin or a fingerprint) … on top of how you already secure your phone.”

Other problems, such as handing over a phone to an officer, came up in the hearing. Hall hopes these answers could be resolved through the study. He brought up possibilities such as having a QR reader scan the electronic license instead of simply handing the phone over to the police.

If the bill passes, electronic copies of driver’s licenses would be an option for those who want them. Hall assured that no resident would be required or forced to have an electronic copy of their driver’s license.

For those who are interested in obtaining an electronic driver’s license, Hall explained that residents would need to be responsible.

“Technology can fail,” he said. “(Residents) would need to be responsible for making sure the phone is in operable condition.”

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