MVA plans self-serve renewal of registration Electronic terminals to be ready in June

January 17, 1996|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,SUN STAFF

Along with sodas, candy and fruit juice, add this to the items you can buy from a vending machine: a renewal of your car or truck registration.

Under a $3.8 million, five-year contract expected to be awarded today, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration soon will install interactive terminals across the state to process vehicle registration renewals.

Beginning in June, the self-service terminals, similar in appearance to banks' automated teller machines, will accept payments, update records and issue renewal stickers on the spot.

They will be installed in selected shopping malls and public buildings by AT&T Global Information Solutions, which beat IBM for the state contract.

The MVA is scheduled to evaluate the performance of the terminals one year after they are installed.

If the machines are judged successful, the MVA has the option of adding another 16 terminals during the remainder of the contract.

State officials said the terminals could be expanded in the future to add other government-related transactions, such as renewal of driver's licenses, issuing of permits, payment of fines and buying of hunting or fishing licenses.

"This is an example of technology bringing government services to people," said Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who demonstrated a prototype terminal temporarily installed in Annapolis Mall yesterday. "It will be less costly and more efficient."

The MVA processes about 1.8 million registration renewals each year. About half are handled by an older, more established technology: the U.S. Postal Service. While many drivers will continue to renew by mail, officials said, the terminals are likely to be helpful to the 900,000 people who go to an MVA office for their renewals.

One thing the terminals won't be able to do is help car owners when their registrations have been flagged by the MVA because of unpaid traffic tickets -- currently, about half the walk-in customers.

When registrations are flagged, drivers still will have to settle with the jurisdiction that issued the ticket and then take proof of payment to one of 13 MVA offices that can handle registration renewals.

Eventually, the MVA would like to be able to accept payment on the spot for unpaid tickets when renewals are processed, said Anne S. Ferro, the MVA's associate administrator for vehicle services.

The terminals are expected to save the state about $1.50 to $2 per transaction, or about $800,000 by the year 2000.

The savings will come from the decrease in the number of employees the MVA will need to hire to process registration renewals.

The terminals offer some other advantages. They are capable of being operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They will accept credit cards, checks or money orders. Officials said some of the machines might even be installed in MVA offices.

Two of the initial 11 machines will print out new registrations for customers while the others will issue a temporary registration that will be good until a permanent one arrives in the mail. MVA officials will have to decide which system is best, because the full-service machines are more expensive, Mrs. Ferro said.

With the contract likely to be approved by the Board of Public Works today, Maryland will join only a handful of states, including Pennsylvania and California, that have tried similar approaches to registration renewals.

The Glendening administration has demonstrated a strong interest in information technology, recently requiring all state agencies to become accessible through the Internet as part of the governor's Electronic Capital initiative.

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