It’s official. No longer will you have to misplace your licence, as NSW is set to go digital. But how safe is the rollout?
The NSW government plans to phase out plastic driver licences and replace them with digital ones, making the new version available on smartphones through the Service NSW app.
It says digital licences will work the same way as current ones, valid for roadside police checks, entry into pubs and clubs and proof of identity.
It claims digital licences will provide greater security and protection against fraud, and has introduced legislation into parliament to facilitate the rollout.
The new laws
Under the new legislation, users of the app will be responsible for ensuring it can be produced when requested by police or other law enforcement officers.
The concern, of course, is that those with a flat battery, cracked screen or digital issues will be unable to meet the requirement to produce their licence and be liable for fines.
The government says that if stopped by police, drivers will not be required to give their devices to officers, but only to display their licence. However, it add that drivers may be required to assist with the reading, copying or scanning of the digital driver licence, which could include “changing the brightness on the screen, angling the device so that it may be scanned, scrolling or tapping on the digital driver licence to show the full details, or refreshing the digital driver licence.”
Police will be able to verify a digital licence by looking at the visual security features, or by contacting the local police station for more information. Officers will also be able to use a “MobiPol” device to scan a licence to initiate a search against backend police systems.
MobiPol has been available to NSW police officers for a number of years. It is essentially a mobile phone customised with a police system, which allows officers to access information from a central database, as well as input new information into the system, directly from the scene of a crime or incident. This, according to police, saves them from completing paperwork at the end of a shift.
Once the information is in the system, it is available to other officers immediately.
New South Wales is the first state or territory to propose a digital driver licence system, which means drivers will still need a plastic version for travelling around Australia until all jurisdictions adopt digital versions and share relevant information.
So for some time to come, drivers with digital licences will still need to have a physical card when outside the state.
Last year’s trial
The government’s proposal follows a trial in Dubbo last year, where more than 1,400 people used a digital licence.
It points out that for most people, their mobile phone has become a de facto wallet and that most welcome the move to a digital licence because it eliminates the consequences of leaving their plastic licence behind.
The government also says the app itself is encrypted, so that data cannot be retrieved if a smartphone is lost or stolen.
It says plastic cards cost the taxpayer tens of millions of dollars each year. Aside from saving significant funds, the government claims to want to make it easier for people to access the public services they need, and that technology means they can now do it at their own convenience.
It’s expected that digital licences will be available within the next few months.