System upgrades at the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles have led to safer and more secure IDs at a time when residents are sheltering at home and offices are shuttered due to the novel coronavirus.
The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles didn’t intend to time the launch of its new online driver's license renewal platform with a health pandemic, but that's how things worked out.
The well-timed system makes in-person trips to the DMV unnecessary, nicely dovetailing with the state's stay-at-home orders, officials say.
“The rollout came at the right time. We could not have been able to give Vermonters this option at a better time,” Vermont DMV Commissioner Wanda Minoli said. “They correlated. They went hand-in-hand very, very well.”
Like many motor vehicle departments across the country, Vermont closed its offices in response to the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.
The ability to renew a driver's license online is part of a comprehensive modernization effort by Vermont to improve the anti-counterfeiting features of the state’s physical driver's license and ID credentials, streamlining processes so that not every interaction requires a trip into a DMV office.
"Vermont had a very outdated system,” Minoli explained, calling attention to old legacy main-frame systems. “We were doing production on-site, at 11 locations, for all of the credentials that we issue, which are well over 20 [different types]."
“The cost to do that was high,” she added. “The replacement of equipment, the inefficiency of it. The inability to enhance the security of those IDs, so we could protect someone’s identity. Because the licenses were very easy to duplicate on a printer at home.”
Vermont contracted with the company Valid to produce the driver's licenses in a secure off-site location, where they are embedded with some 20 security features. But also, Valid was involved with back-office upgrades related to document verification and the online platform to allow drivers to handle more transactions remotely.
“They’re creating a self-service channel for their customers so that they can do some of the transactions that they normally would have to do at the office, they can do that from home,” said Kevin Freiburger, director of identity programs at Valid.
The new driver's license with the upgraded safety features went live in June 2019, while the system to allow for online renewals went live in early April 2020, with 28 percent of renewals taking place online in April, said Minoli.
“If you have all of your information in front of you, it takes less than a minute,” she remarked.
Other developments like self-service kiosks could eventually find their way into DMV offices, once the coronavirus recedes. The new system “has the ability to allow us to continue to expand our services,” she added.
In the end, drivers “want to go mobile, they want to go online [for] renewals, and all of this self-service to keep these people from having to come to the office,” said Freiburger.