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DMV Director Discusses Modernization, Procurements in 2021

Steve Gordon, the Department of Motor Vehicles’ director, discussed its ongoing technology modernization, and IT projects and initiatives that are planned, being tested or likely to deploy this year.

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DMV Director Steve Gordon
The IT modernization at the California Department of Motor Vehicles has made significant progress, its Director Steve Gordon told Techwire, but will be ongoing for some time, with notable procurements likely emerging later this year.

Gordon, who joined the DMV in July 2019, has guided the agency in bringing current IT solutions to bear on older systems while presiding over deployments such as the virtual field office, designed to help residents complete transactions online during the COVID-19 pandemic. The department, he said, will plan one DMV Vendor Day a year — but several projects of interest to IT vendors are in various stages of completion. Among the takeaways:

  • Work with IT vendors including ABBYY, IBM, Salesforce, SimpliGov and UiPath has enabled DMV to “wrap these legacy systems, do some screen scraping … and you’re enabling a modern interface to a legacy system,” the director said. The goal is to enable the department to improve and get caught up on service and self-service transactions — and lay the groundwork for larger modernization projects.
    “The stuff underneath it is still the legacy system,” Gordon said, indicating DMV is going through the Project Approval Lifecycle process to tee up those first couple of larger projects. He estimated their early procurement stages should begin during calendar year 2021.
    “These are high-risk propositions and we’ve got to be able to not only swap those out, we have to go through change management with our workforce, get them used to doing things in a new way, accepting new ways,” he said. “That’s why the governor hired me to be in this role, is to do that. It’s this big system change that we’re going to do, so that this will work long past my days at the DMV.”
  • The department has slashed its Real ID time per transaction per person from 28 minutes to less than 10 minutes. But it wants to further reduce that time to between 5 and 6 minutes before Oct. 1, the deadline to obtain the federally securitized identification required to fly domestically and enter some federal facilities. The REAL ID Modernization Act, which Congress passed last year, is going to “open up this work we already put in place,” Gordon said. Among its provisions, the act lets states receive “identity and lawful status information” from people via electronic transmission; reuse certain photographs “taken by states” and used for current driver’s licenses and IDs and stored as part of their “official state record”; and creates a foundation for Real ID-compliant mobile or digital driver’s licenses for Real ID holders. DMV is girding for the expected surge of Real ID applicants by working to move residents to online transactions that can use new digitization processes already in place, as well as alternate paths, the director said. A prototype solution to assist the department on Real ID, the Express Experience, recognizes uploaded documents, helping residents move through the qualification process.
  • DMV’s Mobile Technician, now in testing and targeted for production later this quarter, aims at helping the department shrink its footprint while connecting with two state populations most in need of IDs — the homeless and people being released from prisons. The goal, Gordon said, is to make available to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation or to county officials a ruggedized tablet loaded with a solution from DMV vendor Idemia that will enable the person using it to begin the identification process in the field.
    The process, Gordon said, is one that the department originally used to begin the Real ID process for residents at airports.
    “We should make sure that we’re on those kinds of small devices … so when we go out to the field, we don’t have to take a van. We can just take our normal computer bag and we can be in business and serve our residents,” he said. Deployment is slated for the year’s second quarter.
  • DMV is working to expand the self-service and contactless services it offers and was “fortunate,” the director said, to have a grounding in these services already in place when COVID-19 hit. Work with IT vendors including Simpligov for forms; UiPath, for robotic process automation (RPA); ABBYY for machine vision and optical character recognition (OCR) and some artificial intelligence approaches have helped “really bootstrap this process,” Gordon said, with Salesforce technology underpinning its “ticketing agency” aspects. Now, as DMV starts digitizing documents, it’s able to start reading them much more quickly and extracting that data and plugging it in to the ticketing system, a highly automated process that frees staffers for other tasks.
    “That started a year ago and we’ve seen really good uptake. We’ve had … three-quarters of a million tickets opened in this system,” Gordon said, noting that’s still a small number compared to DMV’s 50,000 average monthly customers. “But it’s a really foundational item to have us have our customers be able to stay remote and be able to send documents to us, be able to recognize those documents.”  
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Techwire.