Thanks to smartphones, we do not need to carry many devices around any more – radio, camera, calculator, and scanner, among others. Our smartphones now are also capable of carrying our medical records and capable of replacing credit and debit cards. And now, the ability to use your smartphone as a mobile driving license.
One of the new features that has been introduced in Android 11 is an Identity Credential API that can be used for powering virtual mobile driving licenses. The new feature will eventually allow you do away with carrying a physical driving license on you.
Here in the United States and most other countries around the world, a Driver’s License is a valid means of identification used to prove personal identity or personal details. A virtual driving license works the same way.
How does a virtual mobile driving license work?
As a user, you install a mobile driving license app on your smartphone. When asked for your ID, instead of fishing out the traditional plastic card driving license, you launch the virtual driving license app on your phone and tap a button to share your license.
The police officer or other authority requesting verification from you gets the information on their phone via WiFi, via NFC, or via a QR code displayed for them on your phone. This works using existing technologies that mobile payments already use.
Everything happens virtually and your identity and details can get verified within mere moments.
The mobile driving license is authenticated and cryptographically signed by the DMV who issued the license. Your virtual license can also be protected using a password, face ID, or fingerprint identification.
Google says that “The ISO 18013-5 “Mobile driving licence (mDL) application” standard has been written by a diverse group of people representing driving license issuers (e.g. state governments in the US), relying parties (federal and state governments, including law enforcement), academia, industry (including Google), and many others. This ISO standard allows for construction of Mobile Driving License (mDL) applications which users can carry in their phone and can use instead of the plastic card.” 
The benefits of having a mobile driving license are obvious. Ecologically, that is one less printing of any sort to be done. That is also one less physical item to carry around.
Some countries have already implemented some form of virtual mobile driving licenses before now. For example, in 2014, the Dubai Police had developed an app through which people are able to get electronic copies of their driving licence and car registration .
Google’s mDL API standard makes it possible for a standardized format across all countries. Any country can develop based on the API to make mobile driving licenses available to their citizens for use on Android devices.
- Privacy-preserving features in the Mobile Driving License (source)
- Dubai Police app for e-copies of IDs, driving licence (source)
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