Mutant Vehicles

DMV Criteria and Licensing Process

In order to drive a Mutant Vehicle around Black Rock City, it must be licensed. This page will tell you what you must do to get a Mutant Vehicle license.

For general information regarding vehicles at Burning Man, go here.
For criteria for registering a vehicle for people with disabilities, go here.

2016 Mutant Vehicle process changes

The Department of Mutant Vehicles is updating the system for processing Mutant Vehicle applications in 2016.

The Short Version

The increased volume of Mutant Vehicle applications (nearly 1000 in 2015) is requiring the DMV to be more selective than ever. As always, having a vehicle on the playa in the past is no guarantee of being invited in the future! Put your best foot forward in your application and give us a reason to invite your vehicle to Black Rock City.

The Mutant Vehicle application form will be closing earlier than ever this year: Noon (PST) on April 13.

The Whole Story

In past years, the DMV has invited every vehicle to the playa that met the published Mutant Vehicle requirements. We strove to have an objective process to evaluate each application, focusing on level of mutation – not on quality of the art.

Historically the DMV team has reviewed each application shortly after it was received. Each Mutant Vehicle application is reviewed by a committee of DMV Hottie volunteers (usually 15-25 in each application review session), who strive to reach a consensus agreement on whether the vehicle has met the criteria. The DMV then responded to the vehicle creator as quickly as possible.

Over the years, the Mutant Vehicle Community has steadily “ratcheted up” the bar a vehicle must pass, and we’re now at a point where we require vehicles to be completely mutated – showing little or none of the original base vehicle.

In spite of the stricter requirements, the number of applications has steadily grown, and the number of thoroughly mutated vehicles now exceeds what we can accommodate on the playa. Burning Man is primarily a pedestrian and bicycle city, and only a fraction of burners can bring a vehicle before the playa becomes too crowded with them. Our goal is to enable our creative community of artists making mutated vehicles to show off their creations, while balancing the needs of playa preservation, visual stimulation, and safety.

In response, the DMV is revising how we evaluate applications to bring a Mutant Vehicle to the playa.

Rather than considering each vehicle on its own merits as the applications arrive, we will consider each vehicle within the context of all the qualified applications we receive once the application window is closed. We will continue to invite the small number of vehicles that far exceed good execution of their design concept early in our process, even before the application closes. Those that fall so far below the criteria that no amount of re-working will achieve success, may also receive early notice. Processing of the vast majority of remaining vehicles will wait until the application period has closed, so earlier submissions have no advantage over the last-minute entries.

A vehicle will still be required to meet the published Mutant Vehicle criteria. And as before we will also be looking to invite a balance of different types of vehicles on the playa: large scale sound vehicles, flame effects focused vehicles, small artistic vehicles, large transport vehicles, highly participatory vehicles, etc. We are dedicated to licensing vehicles from projects of all budget levels, not just the most expensively built ones.

We will be looking for vehicles that have good execution of their design concept. We will also be evaluating the originality of a vehicle. There are already quite a number of bar-cars, furniture cars and boats, for example and that might not be the best design choice for a new vehicle you’re considering. When it comes to larger vehicles, we will be favoring vehicles that have a sterling record for inclusivity when it comes to offering rides to the public.

So…what can you do to maximize the chance of being able to bring your vehicle to the playa this year?

First, fill out your application thoroughly. Including more detail is better than less. Next, make sure your application gives us a very clear vision of your vehicle. The application should clearly describe the concept for your vehicle and what you have done or will do to realize that concept. Good photos of both the day and nighttime appearance are necessary – If you’re building a new vehicle that isn’t complete yet, then detailed design sketches are a good alternative to photos. Vehicles desiring a night license need to be detailed about the lighting plan for the vehicle. Mutant Vehicles which align with or comment on Burning Man’s annual theme will be given greater consideration.

Please recognize not every vehicle will be invited. Having brought your vehicle to the playa in a prior year is no guarantee that you’ll get invited again. Your application will be considered in comparison to the other applications we receive. Make sure your application conveys what excited you about building the vehicle in the first place!

In past years, we’ve allowed vehicle creators who were not selected to appeal our decision, and offer up additional details about their vehicle, or change some part of their design. If your application is lacking detail, we may ask you for more information, but once that is received, the new process eliminates appeals. It is more important than ever your application be filled out clearly and completely!

Lastly, the deadline for submitting an application will be noon PST on April 13. In past years, we’ve been able to accommodate vehicles that missed the deadline. Because of this evaluation system, we can no longer do that. So get your vehicle application in early!

Thanks for your time, and we look forward to seeing all of your amazing creative vehicle designs this year. If you have questions, we can always be reached at


The DMV Hotties

How do you get a license?

  • Be sure to read about the Department of Mutant Vehicles, and the definition of a Mutant Vehicle.
  • Know the Black Rock City Vehicle Protocols and Driving Rules at Burning Man.
  • Meet the DMV’s Mutant Vehicle Criteria (below).
  • Pre-register your Mutant Vehicle through our online application form. All Mutant Vehicles must be pre-registered through this form to be considered for on playa licensing.
  • Understand that 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 of vehicles the DMV can license. This, combined with the fact that every year people create more mutated vehicles, in effect 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.
  • Go to the DMV at Black Rock City for final vehicle inspection.

Mutant Vehicle Criteria

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 or stock vehicle. A radically mutated vehicle will not resemble or represent a car, truck, golf cart or any other readily identifiable street or stock vehicle. In addition, beyond just changing or covering the base vehicle, the mutation should aim to provide a level of “radical visual stimuli” or “wow factor” for the other participants of Black Rock City . When a person sees this vehicle, their reaction should be “Wow! Look at that!”
  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. For safety requirements of lasers mounted on Mutant Vehicles, please see Mounted Lasers.  Vehicles with trailers must have barriers protecting the space between the vehicle and the trailer.  For details on trailer safety requirements, please see  Vehicles At Burning Man.
  4. Lighting
    There are two fundamental requirements for Mutant Vehicle night illumination.1) SAFETY: First and foremost, people need to be able to see you and you need to be able to see them.Basic safety requirements must be met: The vehicle must include front head lights and the front, rear, 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.2) RADICAL ILLUMINATION: Your visual presentation should be at least as stimulating at night as it is in full daylight, if not even more so. This can be accomplished in two ways:a) You are showcasing a well-crafted mutant vehicle that is already worthy of a day license.  Flame effects alone are not sufficient to qualify for night licensing.
    b) The lighting itself is the “art” (such as the Death Star)In both cases, the vehicle should be easily seen from all sides from some distance away.
  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.

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. Questions about Mutant Vehicle flame effects, as well as images or schematics of flame effect systems should be sent to

Street/Playa Licenses

  1. A Street License allows a Mutant Vehicles to operate on city streets (with the exception of pedestrian-designated streets) and on the open playa of Black Rock City. To be eligible for a Street License:
    1. Vehicles must be less than 13 feet in width, and less than 45′ in length,
    2. Vehicle must be able to safely navigate a right turn on a typical BRC intersection while remaining within one lane of the street.
    3. Operators must be able to safely monitor all segments of vehicle while in operation.
  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.

Trailer Safety

Mutant Vehicles with trailers may have blind spots between the vehicle and the trailer, so must include a barrier against boarding in this zone:

This barrier must have a minimum height of no more than 12 inches from the playa surface and a maximum height that is either equal to the maximum height of the Mutant Vehicle (this is intended to accommodate very low vehicles) OR no less than 36 inches above the playa surface. The barrier must be in place before the vehicle moves and must remain in place at all times when the vehicle is in motion.

Examples of valid trailer barriers:

NOTE:  Regardless of how they are constructed, trailer barriers must be strong and secure enough to block passage of people trying to walk through the hitch area.  Trailers with barriers that are deemed insufficient to block passage will not be licensed by the DMV.

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.

Please see: Guidelines for Flame Effects on Mutant Vehicles


Final Licensing

Final licensing takes place at Burning Man, where the DMV’s team of Hotties will look at the final incarnation of your vehicle. When you are ready to start driving your Mutant Vehicle on the playa, make the DMV your very first stop and bring your acceptance letter with you.

Once at the DMV, the DMV staff will consider the following:

  1. Does your vehicle meet the criteria?
  2. Does the vehicle meet (or exceed) what was proposed in the application?

Register Your Vehicle

After you have read and understand all of the above sections, go to the Questionnaire site to fill out a Mutant Vehicle application.

Mutant Vehicle Registration for Burning Man 2016 will open Mid to Late February, 2016.  Exact dates will be listed here once registration dates are set.

If you have additional questions you can contact the DMV by emailing

Next Page: Vehicle Licensing and Criteria for People with Disabilities