Maryland's Motor Vehicle Administration yesterday announced the purchase of a $31.8 million computer system it hopes will speed up driver licensing services and possibly enable motorists to renew their licenses from home computers or supermarket kiosks.
"We're going to have one-stop shopping," said MVA spokesman Richard Scher. "It should reduce the number of documents you have to fill out and shorten lines tremendously."
The new system, scheduled to being operation in June 2001, will enable drivers to renew their licenses, correct personal information on their licenses, register to vote, have their photo taken and pay in one sitting. Under the current system, drivers must visit different counters for each service.
The state Board of Public Works yesterday approved the purchase of the computers from Compaq Computer Corp. in Greenbelt. The General Assembly also must vote on the MVA's plans, Scher said.
The new technology opens up possibilities for new MVA services, Scher said. Although drivers now can renew vehicle registration via the Internet, license renewals must be done in person.
The new computers are capable of handling online license renewals, Scher said. But transactions from home or from kiosks in public places would require a change in state law.
"The problem is the photo," Scher said. "The law says you have to show up at an MVA office to have a picture taken. Home renewal is definitely something that we are looking at, but we don't know when it might happen."
More immediately, the new computers will enable MVA to expand its services, Scher said. There are 3.4 million licensed drivers in Maryland, 650,000 of whom have to renew their licenses every year. To serve the state's motor vehicle operators, the MVA operates 16 full-service offices, six express offices that handle driver's license transactions only and three part-time offices in rural areas.
"We should be able to establish more full-service centers," Scher said.
At the MVA offices on Harry S. Truman Parkway in Annapolis yesterday, Pete Carbone, of Pasadena, said he was comfortable with the current process, which meant visiting three different counters for service.
"It's better than it was a few years ago," he said, gesturing at the short lines around the spacious center.
Carbone said he wasn't necessarily looking forward to the new system.
"Having everything in one place could be more confusing," he said. "This computer is going to take your picture and your money? I can't see it.
"I'm not usually one to [applaud] the government," he said, as his number was called and he started for the counter. "But I think they've got it figured out pretty good right now."