Spinal Column: Kowall to introduce legislation allowing for digital driver’s licenses

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

One of my goals as a legislator is to do what I can to help make life a little easier for the hardworking men and women of the 15th Senate District and for Michiganders all across the state. One way to do this is to update the law to reflect the way modern technology has changed the way we live.

In some cases, my fellow lawmakers and I need to take action to help protect against threats from criminals who want to abuse technology for their benefit. I wrote about this in last month’s column, “Kowall measure to help protect against car-hacking.”

In other cases, we need to modernize the law to make way for new technology.

That is what I plan to do as I introduce legislation allowing for the possibility of digital driver’s licenses in Michigan.

A digital driver’s license would be just like a regular, plastic license — except it would reside on your mobile phone. Ultimately, digital licenses might replace plastic licenses altogether.

A digital driver’s license would include the same information as on a standard license, including the driver’s name; address and date of birth; and photo. The digital version also would include a barcode for machines to scan that information.

In addition, a digital license would include benefits that a standard license doesn’t have. In many ways, a digital license would be like another robust app on your phone. This type of technology isn’t new, of course. Already we have apps on our phones such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet that can replace our physical credit cards. This would be part of that larger trend.

These licenses would include special security features as well, including an additional layer of security. This might be a special PIN or fingerprint or facial recognition.

And a digital license could be updated more easily than a standard license, via a website or downloads directly from the secretary of state.

All of this makes for increased convenience and ease of use for Michigan drivers.

Of course, with any change in the application of a technology, concerns arise. What if a phone’s battery dies — and access to the license dies along with it? What if a mobile phone containing an unsecure license is stolen? What about bad mobile connections?

These are certainly issues to consider as we implement digital licenses. We will address these concerns. They won’t stop us from providing the best solutions for a better consumer experience.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.