The government will introduce digital driving licences as part of a bid to make the UK transport network “fairer, greener and more efficient,” secretary of state for transport Grant Shapps has said.
The changes will include moving provisional cards online and removing paper test certificates. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will also develop an app to display virtual licences by 2024.
Reports suggest full licences will also eventually make the transition to digital form, but plastic licences will still be available alongside the app for the foreseeable future.
It is claimed that licences were previously unable to go digital due to EU-related regulations.
MOTs for heavy vehicles (annual tests) will also be updated to suit modern standards, Shapps said, moving to digital booking platforms and discarding paper certificates. Cars, vans and bikes will remain unaffected by MOT changes.
The UK government began digitising driving-related documents in June 2015, scrapping the paper counterpart of driving licences, which previously included penalties and the type of vehicle you were allowed to drive.
"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," said Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation. "The risk is that the more personal data we store on our phones, the more tempting a target they become for thieves and hackers."
The 'DVLA Strategic Plan 2021 to 2024', a document that summarises the targets and expectations of the organisation, highlights the changes.
"We will continue to accelerate the expansion and sophistication of our digital services, including working to secure the legislative changes that will be needed to move to providing digital driving licences," it says.
The report also states: "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.
"Our services will be secure, scalable and resilient and we will continue to explore and expand the use of emerging technologies."
The changes come shortly after eight US states announced that they will accept digital licences and other IDs on an iPhone through the integrated Wallet app. The European Commission also revealed plans back in June this year to introduce a similar, non-compulsory app which will allow people to verify their age and driver's license.