China issues 145 million digital driver’s licenses

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A man shows his digital driver's license to a traffic police officer in Taizhou, east China's Jiangsu province, December, 2021. (Photo by Tang Dehong/People's Daily Online)
A man shows his digital driver's license to a traffic police officer in Taizhou, east China's Jiangsu province, December, 2021. (Photo by Tang Dehong/People's Daily Online)

By Zhang Tianpei

China has issued 145 million electronic driver’s licenses nationwide since it officially started digitalizing the legal authorization in December 2021.

The digital licenses were issued to drivers through an official mobile app called 12123 launched by Chinese traffic management authorities.

Apart from applying for digital driver’s licenses, users can enjoy 33 services on the mobile app, such as making appointments of driving tests, selecting license plate numbers and renewing their driver’s licenses.

According to Li Jiangping, director of the Traffic Management Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security, China had 499 million registered motor vehicle drivers. Therefore, the digitalization was not an easy task. It needed massive data analysis and computing, and had a high requirement on system development, equipment upgrading, process adjustment and applications under various scenarios.

The use of digital driver’s licenses was firstly piloted in the cities of Tianjin, Chengdu and Suzhou on June 1, 2021. Three months later, it was officially implemented in 28 cities, including Beijing, and 70 percent of the drivers could obtain the digital version of their licenses in a couple of minutes on the 12123 app without submitting their profile photos.

The digitalization of driver’s licenses concerns the handling of traffic services, traffic law enforcement, as well as the handling of traffic violations and accidents. It helps improve the law enforcement efficiency of traffic management departments.

Besides, digital driver’s licenses can also facilitate transportation, car rental and car insurance sectors, thus better contributing to the development of relevant industries.
A man surnamed Zhang in Jinzhou, northeast China’s Liaoning province recently had a minor auto accident, but found himself not taking his driver’s license when going through insurance claims procedures.

Under the suggestion from traffic police officer Liu Shubo, the man applied for a digital driver’s license on his mobile phone and soon had his loss assessment procedures completed.

In mid-July, Li Shipeng from Zhengzhou, central China’s Henan province went on a business trip to Beijing. When he was about to get a car he rented after arriving in the capital, he was told that he could not pick up the car because he was not taking his driver’s license. Therefore, he downloaded the 12123 mobile app and applied for a digital driver’s license. A few minutes later, Li got the car he reserved.

Apart from all the convenience it makes, digital driver’s licenses are able to show the latest information of their holders and are much safer.

“Different from other electronic licenses, digital driver’s licenses are updated in a real-time manner to show the latest penalty points and license status,” said Liu Dongbo, deputy head of the Traffic Management Research Institute of the Ministry of Public Security.

Li disclosed that more services will become available on the 12123 mobile app.

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