Maryland could begin issuing digital driver’s licenses

Girl holding smart phone outside(Getty Images/iStockphoto/milicad)

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — State legislation could allow the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to begin issuing electronic licenses.

House bill 180 would begin the implementation of a Mobile Driver’s License, a concept created by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators in conjunction with the Motor Vehicle Administration of the Netherlands.

The Mobile Driver’s License app would allow its users to provide a digital version of their license for law enforcement and retailers. This app will only provide information pertinent to the person requesting it, according to a representative from the state’s Motor Vehicle Administration.

While police will have access to all the information normally on a physical license, cashiers will only be given the person’s name, photo and one of three identifiers: “UNDER 18,” “OVER 18/UNDER 21” or “OVER 21,” according to the Motor Vehicle Administration.

This is the screen that would appear if a cashier scanned the digital license of a person between the ages of 18 and 21. (Courtesy Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration)

The system works by producing a Quick Response Code — a black and white pixelated square often known as a QR code — that’s scannable by the person requesting the ID, according to the state transportation agency. While this feature comes standard with most smartphones, older phones may not be able to download the app, the representative said.

The digital license is not meant to replace physical licenses entirely. If a police officer is unable to access a digital ID, a physical copy is still required, according to the Motor Vehicle Administration.

While this technology may help some businesses, many alcohol retailers have already invested in different ID scanning technologies that may not work with a digital license, according to a representative for the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association.

While in favor of the bill, the association proposed an amendment that would ensure retailers could accept mobile licenses on a voluntary basis.

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