Digital driving licences are to be introduced within the next three years, according to the Transport Secretary.
Grant Shapps said that by 2024 learner drivers would be able to access digital versions of provisional driving licences, with a switch to online versions of full licences expected to follow in later years.
Mr Shapps said that the switch was part of a package of measures to make transport “fairer, greener and more efficient”.
Currently, all drivers are required to have a physical copy of their licence - either an old-style paper licence or a plastic photocard. Reports suggest that plastic licences will still be available after digital versions are introduced.
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The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) said it was working on an app that would allow learner drivers to access their provisional licence via smartphone by 2024.
It also said it was developing an online customer account facility that would allow drivers to access their information and DVLA services.
Mr Shapps claimed that EU rules had stopped the introduction of digital licences and the move was part of “exciting new post-EU freedoms”.
He said: “This is a golden chance to shake off the bureaucracy, invest in our future, and realise our potential with world-leading transport that benefits all of Britain.”
He added that other changes would “bring MOTs into the modern age” but didn’t provide details of how this would be done.
Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: “These days the one thing drivers are most likely to have with them is their phone, so using it to carry their driver’s licence could be quite handy.
“The risk is that the more personal data we store on our phones the more tempting a target they become for thieves and hackers.”
In its strategic plan for 2021-2024, the DVLA said: “We will introduce a digital driving licence for provisional drivers and also start to build a customer account facility.
“This will ultimately give our customers personalised, easy and secure access to a range of services and allow them more choice in how they transact with us.
“Our services will be secure, scalable and resilient and we will continue to explore and expand the use of emerging technologies.”