If the existence of countless online survival guides is any indication, there are few tasks more dreaded than a visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Fortunately, in an attempt to modernize (and repair its reputation in the process), a handful of states are revamping the DMV for the better — by offering digital services to drivers.
“People want to access government the same way they access Amazon,” says Mary Lou Prevost, vice president of state and local government and education at CA Technologies, a software company with clients in government and financial industries. “There’s a huge push to move from in line to online.”
West Virginia is speeding driver’s license and vehicle registration renewal by installing three self-serve kiosks across the state, with more planned. According to the state’s DMV, citizens can complete the transaction to renew their license in just a few minutes (the actual ID will arrive via mail); a kiosk prints registration decals and cards on-demand.
In Irvine, Calif., a city about 50 miles south of Los Angeles, the state’s first DMV kiosk was installed at the local University of California in April this year. Since then, the department has added more booths in grocery stores in two other cities, Lancaster and Palmdale.
(The state’s forward progress stalled, however, with Gov. Jerry Brown vetoing a bill that would allow drivers to store an electronic license on their phone.)  
MORE: Go Inside the Mission That’s Bringing the Federal Government Into the Digital Age
For the past year, Iowa has been piloting an electronic driver’s license and is expected to roll out a digital ID sometime next year, according to the Des Moines Register. State-sponsored apps that issue electronic driver’s licenses have been proposed in Delaware, New Jersey and Arizona.
But there’s more to bringing the DMV online than just providing a seamless service to drivers. Throughout the U.S., departments are slowed down by outdated software and computer systems in desperate need of an upgrade.
“We think about it as just our driver’s license, but you’ve got to think about vehicle registration, truck registration and health information. It’s a wealth of data they’re dealing with,” Prevost tells NationSwell.
Plus, switching to digital solutions can be problematic, as was the case in Connecticut, where wait times extended to seven hours during a software rollout. While the transition may be painful, says Prevost, “The net result of modernizing will be far better citizen engagement and a far better view of the government.”
Homepage photo courtesy of the California Department of Motor Vehicles.