France is gearing up to trial digital driving licences as part of a wider push to digitise public services and processes.
The new system will first be trialled in the Rhone, Hauts-de-Seine and Eure-et-Loir departments towards the end of 2023, and if successful, will be rolled out nationwide from early 2024.
The e-licences will be stored via the official France Identité app and can be accessed without an internet connection. The app already exists for Android phones on Google Store, and an iPhone version is in beta testing and will be available soon, officials say.
Those with a valid driving licence will be able to use a digital version used during roadside checks, car hire and as proof of identity.
It is intended to bring benefits to the environment by cutting down paper usage and to the lives of citizens by simplifying administrative procedures; the thinking being that people are more likely to lose or forget their driver's licence than their smartphone.
The French Government has confirmed that it will not be mandatory to have a digital driving licence. France’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, told Le Parisien that the digital versions will not “never replace” current licences and are meant instead to “compliment” them and “simplify the lives of citizens who are fond of digital administrative procedures,”
This “certified copy” will also be useful in the “fight against identity theft” and to facilitate obtaining a power of attorney, Darmanin added.
The e-licenses are part of a wider plan by the French Government called “dématérialisation” - the process whereby official documents and services are being digitised. The government says it eventually wants to create digital versions of the French health insurance (carte Vitale) and identity (carte d'identité) cards.