New Mexico ponders smart license
- By Brian Robinson
- Mar 26, 2002
New Mexico is investigating the use of smart cards as the basis for its
state driver's license, something that is increasingly talked about but
not yet seriously considered by most states.
The New Mexico application has been under consideration since 1998,
said Keith Perry, deputy director of the state's Motor Vehicle Division,
though it has taken "some time to bubble to the surface." However, he thinks
a pilot program could be chosen by the end of this year.
A goal of the program would be to form public/private partnerships with
companies such as banks, retailers and medical providers who could provide
a range of other "value-added" applications, such as credit cards, renewable
cash accounts or medical information, for the card.
"That's one of the prime concepts for this," Perry said. "You'd get
a more assured buy-in from the license holders if the card could be used
for more than just the identification of a driver. It would help lower the
cost of the system for all of the partners, as well as decrease the fraudulent
use of licenses [as identification cards]."
But it would be "at least a couple of years" before the smart card license
could be widely used, he said, because it would take time to build smart
card readers, without which the chip-based cards are virtually useless.
The increasingly urgent motivation to find a more secure form of ID
has pushed driver's license smart cards closer to the spotlight. A smart
card could contain biometric information such as fingerprints, as well as
encrypted keys that only the verified license holder could unlock.
However, Perry said, although the events of Sept. 11 certainly heightened
interest in the security aspects of smart cards, the initial motivations
for New Mexico were several issues such as the need to reduce fraud.
Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached
Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.