Technology for the DMV of the Future

According to the US Department of Transportation, there are 276 million vehicles on the roads today and it’s up to DMVs in all 50 states to manage all those cars and drivers. That’s a lot of paperwork for IDs, vehicle registrations, license renewals and other forms. Consumers and voters have been asking states to invest in digitization of common public processes like driver’s license renewals for years. And many states have.

We commissioned a study with the Center for Digital Government (CDG) to evaluate the availability and accessibility of key government services, like those offered by state DMVs, within the 50 states. Here’s what we found for driver’s licensing processes:

Progress to a Paperless DMV

  • 10 states allow applicants to pre-fill their application for new driver’s licenses online. All 50 states require in-person application for new driver’s licenses.
  • A majority of states (37) allow online driver’s license renewals but thirteen still do not.
  • Leading states allow driver’s license applicants to pre-apply online and schedule their in-person visits at the DMV.

The California DMV Technology Upgrade

The California DMV polled well in the survey when it came to availability of online services. The agency recently deployed technology solutions and made several process improvements to make it easier and quicker for residents to get a REAL ID, including allowing residents to complete an online REAL ID application before they visit an office.

In a press statement issued in January 2020, California DMV officials said transaction times were cut by more than half and the statewide average wait time in an office was down to about 30 minutes as a result. California also allows residents to book DMV appointments online and processes driver’s license renewals online.

Moving Driver’s License Renewals Online

Driver’s license renewals are one process that can easily be moved online. Our survey found 37 states already allow for online driver's license renewals.

Because all the driver’s data already exists in a database, driver’s license renewal applications are an easy place for state DMVs that are looking to improve their customer experience and efficiency.

There are four parts to implementing online license renewals:

  1. Create a digital mobile-friendly guided form for drivers to complete.
  2. Connect this guided form to your driver’s database so that fields where you already have data, like address and license number, can be prepopulated. This cuts down on the amount of information drivers have to enter, which increases their satisfaction with the process but also the conformity of your data.
  3. Request a secure electronic signature at the end of your web or mobile form submission process. You can allow drivers to use a trackpad or touch screen to sign – just as they would with a pen in-person.
  4. Integrate the collection of payments and renewal fees at the time of electronic signature. If you are taking this process digital – take it all the way digital by collecting payments at the time you process the renewal application.

Related: Electronic signature solutions for public sector.

Improving the Driver’s License Application Process

All fifty states require initial driver’s license applications to be completed in-person because of the requirement for in-person ID verification. This process too could possibly move to a digital-first format in the future.

There are many private sector companies already using technology to verify identification remotely with tools that allow consumers to use the camera on their smart phone or computer to show their passport or driver’s license to an application that can verify it. Financial institutions are already using this technology for digital and mobile bank account openings that do not require customers to come into a bank branch. And HR departments are beginning to use ID verification technology to remotely and digitally onboard new employees.

DMV forms will move online

It’s just a matter of time, leadership and investment. The benefits of online enabling the completion of forms and processes can reduce DMV staff work and the amount citizens that are supported every week at a DMV location. If citizens can fill out and submit certain types of forms digitally ahead of an appointment, the DMV employee simply has to pull the information up once the citizen arrives. This prevents the citizen from having to fill out the form by hand in person and the employee from having to re-key the data.

As state DMVs make plans to digitize forms, we will likely see them look to replicate success seen in private sector and digitally forward states like Washington and California.

To learn more about what leading states are doing to digitize driver’s licensing and other common applications and forms, download Building a More Agreeable Government.

Seth Engel is a senior product marketing manager at Docusign.