February 25, 2010 By Russell Nichols
Mark Tyler, who works for the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), knows better than to wait in the long, congested lines spilling from the agency's field offices. He said he only makes appointments.
But Tyler is also responsible for thrusting the DMV into the world of mobile technology with a new application that can help iPhone owners steer clear of the longest lines.
"Nobody wants to stand in line at the DMV," said Jan Mendoza, public information officer for DMV, adding that she believes the new "DMV Now" iPhone app unveiled this month is the only one of its kind in the country. "We're trying to make it known that we have other options for folks. If you're out and about, you can now go through your iPhone."
The application allows iPhone owners to find the wait times for service at nearby field offices so they can make an informed decision on where to go. (In the past, the times were available only on the DMV Web site.) Not only that, but it also provides directions based on GPS, sample written driving tests and access to the agency's YouTube channel, which features a library of driver education videos. Since its release last week, the free app has been downloaded 5,000 times, Mendoza said.
VIDEO: California DMV's Free iPhone Application
The DMV was able to develop the app in-house. Tyler, the lead developer, works on the DMV's Web site services team and previously taught himself how to build iPhone apps. And when the idea first came up, the team realized they could offer most of the same information that exists on the Web site to mobile users.
Tyler refuses to wait in line himself. He said when he needs to go to a DMV field office, he always makes appointments in advance. But he knows how valuable the app will be because whenever he drives by a Sacramento office at 7:30 a.m., he can see the line spilling out of the doors.
"You might have a two hour [wait] there and 15 minutes at another office that's 10 more minutes away," he said. "It gives you that option."
In the DMV's ongoing efforts to put more information and services at citizens' fingertips, this new app is just the beginning.
The agency plans to launch an online portal in the vein of online banking, Mendoza said. On the site, users will be able to create personalized profiles that are password protected, and look up information - such as a basic version of their driving record, vehicle registration payments and points on their license. The portal is expected to come online this year.