Plans have been announced to replace provisional driving licences with an app by 2024, as well as scrapping paper test certificates for newly qualified drivers.
The plan has been introduced by the DVLA, and forms part of a wider goal to create a ‘fairer, greener and more efficient’ transport network in the UK.
This online shift will be treated as a test run for full driving licences; if it’s successful, those will most likely be replaced with digital versions, too.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that government would also be ‘bringing MOTs into the modern age’, with the introduction of digital MOT certificates and booking systems.
Growing preference for paperless options
The planned changes won’t be surprising for many, as there’s been a growing shift toward paperless and plastic-free alternatives in retail and other industries. And there’s precedent in the area of official documents, too – paper driving licences were scrapped in 1998, for example.
As more focus is placed on our environmental impact, a digital alternative to photocards could be the preferred option for many drivers. However, it does leave some questions open around security and accessibility.
Could the digital driving licence cause a rise in mobile phone theft?
There are concerns that digital licences stored on people’s own devices will cause a rise in phone theft. The same problem was posed by the introduction of mobile banking, which has become increasingly popular over the past decade.
‘The risk is that the more personal data we store on our phones, the more tempting a target they become for thieves and hackers,’ said Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation.
We’re already urged to maintain security across our devices, and this seems likely to become increasingly important. Fingerprint passwords, device location trackers and even remote phone wiping in the event of theft, are all readily available security options at this point in time. The digitalisation of driving licences, which are used as a major form of ID, would render this even more essential.
Will going digital fix application delays?
The DVLA are currently working through a hefty backlog of driving licence renewals, thanks to a perfect storm of staff shortages and COVID-related issues. Currently the delay is about 10 weeks for processing renewal applications received by post, and drivers are being urged to use online methods instead.
While the backlog should have shifted by 2024 – we’d hope! – a digital licencing alternative could help prevent these issues in the future.
What if I can’t use a digital driving licence?
If having your driving licence on your mobile phone isn’t for you, there’s no need to worry. The DVLA have stated that they want to ‘build services that are digital by desire’ – and photocards will still be available for those who need them.
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