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Finland: Finnish Transport Safety Agency to Introduce Digital Driver’s License

(Mar. 15, 2018) On January 30, 2018, the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafiksäkerhetsverket, Trafi) announced it will introduce digital driver’s licenses as of summer 2018, reportedly making Finland the first country in the world to introduce a digital driver’s license. (Digitalt körkort, TRAFI (last updated Jan. 30, 2018); Simon Karlsson, Digitalt körkort redan i sommar – Finland först i världen, YLE (Feb. 2, 2018).)

Under Finnish law anyone operating a car in Finland must possess a valid driver’s license and be prepared to display it upon request by a police officer. (32 § Körkortslag (Finlands Författningssamling [FFS] 29.4.2011/386), Finlex website.)

The Finnish Transport Safety Agency has previously conducted tests using a smartphone app to display the driver’s license. The information contained in the digital driver’s license will mirror that on the physical license. (Trafi, Uppgifterna på digitala körkortet, Dec. 21, 2017, Trafi website.)

According to the Finnish Transport Safety Agency, the digital driver’s license would be legal to prove one’s right to drive in mainland Finland, but not Åland, Finland’s Swedish-speaking archipelago province in the Baltic Sea. (Digitalt körkort, supra.)

Usefulness of the Digital Driver’s License

The anticipated usefulness of the e-driver’s license is unclear. Finnish law requires that the holder of a driver’s license present it upon request by the police. (32 § Körkortslagen.) If someone is driving without his or her license, the police may, through the use of a passport or other means, attempt to establish the person’s identity and, on verifying that the person has a driver’s license, allow the person to continue operating the car. Nevertheless, that person must still present his or her driver’s license to the police at a later time. (Id.) Legally, that requirement would not change with the introduction of the e-license. Whether the police would continue to enforce that provision or whether displaying the digital driver’s license app would replace the need to also carry a physical copy of one’s driver’s license has not been established, however. In any case, for the digital driver’s license to be recognized on the same terms as the physical license, the Finnish Parliament would have to make legislative changes. Additionally, Finnish police have pointed out in reports that replacing the physical driver’s license with the digital app would likewise require a legislative change. (YLE, supra.)

According to reports the e-license could be used in other situations besides driving—for instance, when needing to prove one’s identity or age. Moreover, during the test phase of the driver’s license app, users were able to use it to collect postal packages. (Id.)