The Transport Secretary has confirmed plans to make digital driving licences available by 2024. Provisional licences will move on to a new DVLA app as part of plans to make the transport system ‘fairer, greener & more efficient’.
Plastic licences will still be available for those that require them but if the project is successful, it’s thought that full licences may also become digitised.
Grant Shapps also tweeted that he’ll be “doing away with paper test certificates & bringing MOTs into the modern age”. It’s believed that the annual tests will be arranged with an online booking system and use digital certificates.
Mr Shapps explained that the move has only been made possible thanks to “exciting new post-EU freedoms”.
He said: “This is a golden chance to shake off the bureaucracy, invest in our future, and realise our potential with world-leading transport that benefits all of Britain.”
This isn’t the first time digital licences have cropped up in the DVLA’s plans.
Back in 2016, the organisation’s former CEO teased an image of a digital licence in a smartphone ‘wallet’ much like a debit or credit card.
In the government body’s strategic plan for 2021-2024, it discussed plans to modernise licences to better suit a wide range of drivers.
“We will introduce a digital driving licence for provisional drivers and also start to build a customer account facility. This will ultimately give our customers personalised, easy and secure access to a range of services and allow them more choice in how they transact with us.”
The DVLA’s plan suggests that paper and plastic documents will not be completely phased out in the near future: “Our intention is to build services that are digital by desire – with digital services that are so good that people will choose to use them, making their transactions faster, simpler and with a lower carbon footprint.
“However, we will not be an exclusively digital organisation and will ensure we continue to operate as a multi-channel organisation, so that those who cannot go online can still transact with us in other ways.”
Currently the DVLA issues more than 10 million licences a year and holds records for more than 49 million driving licence holders.
Mr Shapps’ digitised licence plans have raised concerns that the system may become inaccessible or inconvenient to older drivers and those without access to smartphones and the internet.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, also highlighted possible security implications.
He said: “These days the one thing drivers are most likely to have with them is their phone, so using it to carry their driver’s licence could be quite handy.
“The risk is that the more personal data we store on our phones the more tempting a target they become for thieves and hackers.”
At least the technology might prevent a future backlog at the DVLA. In July this year, we learnt that motorists had been hit by driving licence delays of 10 weeks or more to receive their paper documents.