Mobile driver’s license (mDL) adoption rates

mobile ID on cell phone

Last updated on March 19th, 2024 at 03:10 pm

As a Louisiana-based identity verification company we’ve been following the rise in mobile driver’s license (mDL) adoption closely. Louisiana was the first state to launch an mDL in 2019. Baton Rouge-based software development company, Envoc, created the first digital license, which includes hi-resolution images of the front and back (including the 2D barcode) of the license, as well as one-click license renewal. In 2020, they added to the app’s utility by embedding vaccine cards. 

Since then, mDLs have been the topic dejeur at identity conferences. mDLs and the future of digital identity made up more than 60% of the conference agenda at AAMVA’s 2022 annual summit in Baltimore. It is no surprise that consumers want to manage their identity documentation on their phones, and many states are discussing launching apps of their own. 

mDL adoption statistics

  • Currently 10+ states offer mobile driver’s licenses – Louisiana, Arizona, Maryland, Colorado, Mississippi, Florida, and more
  • 12 states are currently piloting mDLs
  • 2 states utilize the Apple Wallet for management of their mDLs – Arizona and Maryland
  • 9 additional states have announced plans to pilot uploading IDs to Apple Wallet – Georgia, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Utah, Hawaii, Mississippi, Ohio, and the territory of Puerto Rico
  • Apple Wallet authenticates the license by using a front/back photo, and then a selfie using Apple’s Face ID. The information is then sent to the state’s issuing authority for verification.
  • 10 airports explicitly accept mDLs issued by Apple – including Phoenix (PHX), Baltimore (BWI), and Washington DC (DCA)
  • We have heard anecdotal evidence that mDLs have been accepted at additional airports including Seattle (SEA) and Los Angeles (LAX)
  • 1 state is piloting mobile IDs via the Smart ID program, sponsored by Thales – Florida
  • 70% of global citizens would like their identity document on their smartphone
  • Document security was the #1 concern for consumers
  • Louisiana was the first state to launch a digital driver’s license in 2019, with its own mobile app. 1.5M adults in the state have installed the LA Wallet application – 46% of eligible users
  • Colorado launched their mDL in October 2019, via their MyColorado app, which also offers management of the vaccine record
  • 900,000 Coloradans have installed MyColorado – a 25% usage rate
  • Market Insight predicted a 24% CAGR for Mobile ID initiatives worldwide including both drivers licenses and healthcare credentials

mDL adoption challenges

Three key challenges have emerged relative to mDLs. 

Mobile driver’s license accessibility

The first is accessibility. 15% of adults do not have smartphones, a requirement for any type of digital wallet. That number climbs to 22% for adults with an income of below $30,000. For this reason, government officials have always positioned digital driver’s licenses as companions to physical IDs, not replacements. 

Additionally, in the case of Arizona and Maryland, their state-sponsored mDL programs only work on Apple phones and Apple watches. 43% of Americans use Android devices, so a sizable chunk of the market is left with no digital ID option. With Android usage skewing towards lower income smartphone owners, the accessibility gap again highlights a need to maintain physical IDs in order to provide equitable identity verification to all state residents.

Mobile driver’s license security

The second issue is security. While physical IDs have hundreds of embedded security features like holograms and watermarks, mDLs do not. Digital driver’s license security features work differently, and many have been shrouded in secrecy. 

Because each state operates independently, AAMVA standards for mDLs are murky. AAMVA references embedded cryptography, as well as third party verification against state databases, but this only applies to usage by law enforcement, since they will have unlimited ability to query DMV databases.

There is currently no standard protocol for mobile driver’s license (mDL) verification for third party businesses such as bars, casinos, or dispensaries (Oregon has explicitly banned the use of mDLs for entry to dispensaries). However, all publicly available mDLs do still provide a scannable 2D barcode, which can be scanned. So 2D barcode scanning with robust barcode security features can still reliably catch some fraudulent mDLs with improperly formatted barcodes.

Mobile driver’s license privacy

The last key issue is privacy. While renewing a driver’s license by clicking a button sounds great, many consumers are worried about storing a personal identity document on their phone, and rightly so. The application can open doors for things like browsing history and social media to be tied to your state-sponsored identity.

ISO has compiled a standard known as ISO 18013-5, that is meant to govern digital identities. These principles include:

  • Consent of the citizen. Data is never shared from the mobile driver’s license mDL without citizen consent
  • Purpose specification before any information from an mDL is shared with a third party (for example, opening a bank account)
  • Data minimization. Systems must be in place to limit access to PII. A nightclub may not need to know an mDL holder’s address, for example.
  • Limitations on data collection in aggregate. ISO recommends that apps prevent creating profiles based on where an mDL is used, and that no centralized database of usage be created.
  • Encryption. The highest level of encryption is recommended on any apps that store mDL data.

How to scan mobile drivers licenses

Currently, there are a very limited number of ID scanners that are capable of both authenticating physical IDs, and scanning mobile driver’s licenses. The AT9K has a large enough area underneath the shell to accept most mobile phones, allowing for the 2D barcode to be scanners. However, for ease, we recommend an authentication device for scanning physical licenses and passports, and a mobile scanning device for scanning mDLs.

Contact us today for a free consultation. We are experts in creating solutions that enable businesses to accept all types of IDs, including mobile driver’s licenses.