The DVLA has announced a trial that could see plastic driving licences phased out over the next few years in favour of a new digital system.
The first phase of the plans will see the launch of new mobile provisional licences for learner drivers, which will be accessible via a smartphone app.
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.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said that Britain’s transport system would be “fairer, greener and more efficient thanks to our exciting new post-EU freedom”.
He said that digital driving licences and MoTs would move the system “into the modern age”.
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 AA called for card licences to be continued alongside online access.
AA president Edmund King said: “We envisage that many, particularly older drivers, will still want to stick to paper or card driving licences as they don’t all have mobile phones.
“Digital driving may suit many but it should sit alongside the traditional driving licences for some time to come.”