Deadline for Art Car registrations this Tuesday

High noon on Tuesday May 15th is your last chance to apply to the Department of Mutant Vehicles if you want to bring an art car this year.

It seems that the population cap is not the only limitation BMOrg wants to place on Burning Man. They are cracking down on art cars too. Yep, you could spend all year working on your art car, only to be told it’s not what they’re really looking for. What are they looking for? This is not exactly clear, but just because you had an art car in the past, doesn’t mean you can bring it again:

the DMV gets hundreds of more applications each year than it can license to drive on playa, and that number is increasing faster than does the number the DMV can license. This, combined with the fact that every year people create more mutated vehicles, in effect in raises the bar to get your vehicle licensed each year. Keep in mind that just because you have been licensed in the past does not mean you are guaranteed a license in subsequent years.

Why is this? It’s not like we’re running out of Playa. There’s nothing in the BLM permit that restricts art cars. They don’t cause any additional problems for local residents. It’s hard to see how it’s a safety issue, when there’s already hundreds of art cars driving around at 5 mph. Maybe it’s a hippy issue? We should all stay in tents and ride bicycles, eating vegan food?

An art car can be a substantial investment – not just of money, but of time, headaches, logistics, and personnel. What is the incentive to put this in, if you’re not guaranteed that you can get tickets or a license? It seems self-defeating to cap them, it’s the world’s biggest festival of art, the more art the better. A recent issue of Vanity Fair discussed fashion house Rodarte, two sisters with an artistic take on clothing design. This is an example of how the art world’s cutting edge today is the expansion away from pictures on gallery walls, to functional art that’s all around us.


Jeffrey Deitch, one of the country’s most visible art-world taste-makers, thought so, too. Impressed by their sculptural form, texture, and power to move, he promptly mounted those pieces at the L.A. County Museum of Art, where the lines, he says, went around the block. To him, the sisters are at the forefront of “the freshest thing going on in our culture today, this expanded view of what art is. It’s no longer just pictures on a wall in a gallery.

In our opinion the DMV license should be for life. Maybe every 3-5 years you could have a renewal inspection. Once the vehicle is approved, it’s welcome any time. This would help create a robust after-market for art cars – when you buy it, you get the title which says what licenses it’s been approved for. Charge an application fee, and use the money from this to employ someone who can certify the art cars off the Playa, to speed things up. Many of these vehicles stay in Reno or San Francisco for the rest of the year. These days, it’s also easy enough with Skype or Facetime to do video inspections.

It’s not like it’s the real DMV…keep it fun, don’t make it a bureaucratic nightmare or another opaque guest list system. I just saw 300 art cars driving through the streets of Houston, most not street legal at all, mixing in with regular traffic in the night parade – and there was not one problem. There was no certification process. Surely Burning Man can’t be more dangerous or complex than the streets of the 4th largest city in the US.

The DMV application process is rather onerous:

In order to be eligible for a Mutant Vehicle license you must satisfy ALL of the following criteria:

There are five main points the DMV considers when reviewing your vehicle.

  1. Level of Mutation
    Mutate your vehicle to the point that it is not recognizable as a street vehicle. A radically mutated vehicle will not resemble or represent a car, truck, golf cart or any other readily identifiable street vehicle.  Is the vehicle radically mutated or is the exterior a temporary decoration that required little or no actual mutation of the base vehicle?
  2. Interactivity
    Provide an interactive experience for participants of Black Rock City. Interactivity is defined as an opportunity for any BRC citizen to participate in some activity offered by your vehicle. The theme and/or size of the vehicle is what’s considered here. Do you entertain a crowd? Have plenty of room for riders? Provide a service to the community via your vehicle? Include an interactive element?
  3. Safety
    Depending on the size and style of your vehicle, some or all of the following may apply: The vehicle must be able to maintain a steady speed of five MPH (the speed limit in Black Rock City) or less. Brakes must be in good working order. The vehicle should have sturdy side railings and stair railings. There should be no sharp or protruding objects. A fire extinguisher is highly recommended. Keeping a first aid kit on board is just plain smart. The vehicle should also have a safe access area and procedures for loading and unloading passengers.
  4. Lighting
    For vehicles seeking a night license, basic requirements must be met: The rear, front AND sides must be lit. All vehicle extremities must be lit. Any trailer hitch or dangerous area of the vehicle must be lit. Anywhere someone would walk, step, or climb on your vehicle should be lit, especially stairs and ladders.
  5. Sound
    The DMV has a new Sound Policy for Mutant Vehicles. It is important that you know it. Please go here to review the policy. All vehicles driving in Black Rock City must follow the sound policy.

In addition to these criteria, you must also:

  1. Describe the motivation for creating your Mutant Vehicle.
    If the convenience of personal transportation is your primary goal, please rethink your intent. A primary factor driving your urge to drive should be the sharing of your creation with the rest of the community.
  2. Comply with all DMV pre-registration guidelines and deadlines. 
    Mutant Vehicle pre-registration is mandatory. You will be asked to include a photo or sketch of your vehicle, describe the safety considerations you are making, give detailed information about the radical mutations to the vehicle. You’ll also be asked to agree in advance to honor Black Rock City driving protocols.
  3. Adhere to Black Rock City vehicle/driving protocols.
    Black Rock City has a few simple driving guidelines. If you violate these community guidelines, you’ll lose the privilege of driving your Mutant Vehicle at Burning Man. In addition, you and your vehicle may also be removed from the event, and you can be fined by law enforcement. Furthermore, owners that cannot follow our simple rules run the risk of not being licensed in subsequent years.

There are 6 potential licenses to apply for:

Mutant Vehicle Licenses

Mutant Vehicle licenses are issued by the DMV. All licensed Mutant Vehicles will be given a Day and/or a Night license. Licenses will also be designated for Street or Playa driving, based on the size of the vehicle (see more below). Day or Night designation is based on many factors, including what purpose the vehicle serves, lighting and how it is implemented. Mutant Vehicles that incorporate flame effects may also receive a Flame Effects license. Any trailers that are a component of a Mutant Vehicle must be licensed as well. Support vehicles will be reviewed independently.

Street/Playa Licenses

  1. Street licenses allow Mutant Vehicles to operate on city streets (with the exception of pedestrian-designated streets) and on the open playa of Black Rock City.
  2. A Playa license allows a Mutant Vehicle to operate ONLY on the open playa of Black Rock City. Mutant Vehicles with a Playa license may NOT be operated on BRC streets except on their way to the playa from their camp (using the most direct entry).

Day/Night Licenses

  1. Day licenses allow Mutant Vehicles to move around Black Rock City during the daytime.
  2. Night licenses allow Mutant Vehicles to move around Black Rock City at night. To receive a night license, Mutant Vehicles must be FULLY and RADICALLY illuminated.
  3. Some vehicles may receive both a night and a day license.

Trailer Licenses
Trailer licenses are required for any trailers that are attached to Mutant Vehicles. These are licensed separately from the Vehicle.

Flame Effects Licenses
These licenses allow Mutant Vehicles that incorporate flame effects to use these effects on the playa. An additional questionnaire and process is required for these licenses.

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