There might come a day when a cop asks to see your driver’s license, and you simply whip out your cell phone and activate an app.

San Fernando Valley Assemblyman Matt Dababneh (D–Encino) this week introduced AB 221, legislation that would let the Department of Motor Vehicles develop a mobile application for a digital driver’s license, which would be accessed via smartphone.

“California has always been at the forefront of digi­tal innovation and last year passed legislation allowing individuals to access their automobile insurance on their smartphones,” Dababneh said in a statement.

“What my bill will do is not replace traditional licenses,” he added when contacted by phone. “It will supplement options for people who want to have a traditional ID. We’ll give people the option when they’re out and need to prove their age, who they are maybe at a security checkpoint, to use it in online commerce. It can be used as a backup in case you lose your license.”

Dababneh, who represents the West Valley from Encino to Calabasas, notes that people use their phones every day to read the news, shop online and even check their bank accounts.

“My goal is to make sure California is once again leading the way in making people’s lives easier and more secure and to give people an alternative option that’s more efficient, more secure and more practical,” he said. “Over 30 states have already followed our lead and have car insurance that’s able to be put in a digital form.”

The bill, which would also work with California identification cards, will mandate built-in electronic safeguards to protect identities from unauthorized access, “ultimately offering better security than traditional licenses carried in a purse or wallet,” the assemblyman said.

California is not the first state to consider smartphone technology for identification purposes. Iowa is conducting a pilot program this year.

Dababneh could not say how much the bill would cost to implement, but he believes it could save the state money in the long term by increasing efficiency. His office will coordinate with the California Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies to see what the transition would look like, he said.

State residents who opt for the app would be required to apply to the DMV for a personal identification number in order to obtain access to their secure information.

Dababneh sees the shift as a natural progression in the Internet age. The young generation has “a very different sense of technology,” he said.

“It’s not even considered a phone anymore — it’s a database. It’s their mode of connection to not only other people but to information.”

Staff writer Brenda Gazzar contributed to this report.


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