Mutant Vehicle Criteria and Licensing

Looking for info about Disabled Person’s Vehicles? Go here.

How do you get a Mutant Vehicle license?

  • Be sure to read the definition of a Mutant Vehicle and learn about the Department of Mutant Vehicles (DMV)
  • Review the Mutant Vehicle Workshop videos
  • Know the Black Rock City Vehicle Protocols and Driving Rules at Burning Man.
  • Meet the DMV’s Mutant Vehicle Criteria (below).
  • Fill out a Mutant Vehicle Application through our online application form. All Mutant Vehicles must apply through this form to be considered for on playa licensing (you can’t just show up at the event with your vehicle and get licensed).
  • Understand that the DMV gets hundreds of more applications each year than it can license to drive on the 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.
  • Bring your Mutant Vehicle to the DMV at Black Rock City for final vehicle inspection. Final inspection and licensing are required before you can drive your vehicle at the event.

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 / Visual Presentation

    • Mutate or create 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 most cases, little or none of the base vehicle should be visible.
    • Beyond just changing, covering or hiding the base vehicle (if any) , the mutation should aim to be visually compelling, providing “wow factor” for the other participants of Black Rock City. When a person sees this vehicle, their reaction should be “Wow! Look at that!”
    • General Considerations:
      • If a vehicle maintains it’s stock form (i.e. it keeps the shape of a bus, golf cart or street vehicle) it may not be sufficiently mutated to meet the Mutant Vehicle Criteria.
      • A vehicle that has primarily been covered with fabric, fur, or other material, without also significantly changing the vehicle shape, may not be sufficiently mutated to meet the Mutant Vehicle Criteria.
      • A vehicle that is primarily stripped to the engine and frame may not be sufficiently mutated to meet the Mutant Vehicle Criteria.
      • For visual examples of vehicles that applied but did not meet Mutant Vehicle Criteria, please see:
        DMV GALLERY.
      • Consideration may be given to vehicles that are presented outside of their normal context.
      • The DMV will 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 primarily look for vehicles that meet the criteria above AND demonstrate good execution of their design concept.
      • We also consider the originality of a vehicle. There are already quite a number of bar-cars, furniture cars, and boats, for example, and the DMV may choose to only invite some of vehicles that are similar or identical in design. The same applies to groups of identical vehicles, ie, fleets, herds or swarms of similarly designed vehicles.

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

    • The safe operation of a Mutant Vehicle at the event is the Registrant’s responsibility. 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.
      • Having a fire extinguisher and First Aid kit on board is highly recommended.
      • The vehicle should 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 the section on safety below.
    • Important notes
      • The DMV does not do Safety Inspections.  There are specialized teams that do Fire Effect and Laser Inspections for Mutant Vehicles.
      • The DMV may decline a license to a vehicle if there is a demonstrable safety concern.

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. 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: The visual presentation of your vehicle should be at least as stimulating at night as it is during the day,  if not even more so. This can be accomplished in two ways:
        •  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.
        • The lighting itself is the “art” (such as the Death Star)
    • In either case, the vehicle should be easily seen from all sides from some distance away.

5. Sound

    • There is a 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.

What is NOT Considered a Mutant Vehicle?

  • The following are not considered Mutant Vehicles:
    • Vehicles only stripped to the frame and engine
    • Street/stock vehicles with minimal changes or temporary decorations.
    • Vehicles which too strongly resemble the original form or where too much of the base vehicle is unmutated and still visible.
    • Vehicles that may be unusual, but are stock/mass produced (military, industrial or foreign-made vehicles).  Examples of this that have previously applied include an MK 48, Swamp Buggies and Tuk-Tuks
    • Low riders, classic cars, custom cars, monster trucks, dune buggies, rat rods and hot rods (there are other venues for these vehicles to be appreciated)

In addition to the above criteria, you must also:

  • Describe the motivation for creating your Mutant Vehicle
    Why did you make this vehicle?  What was your motivation/intent?
    NOTE: 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.
  • Comply with all DMV application guidelines and deadlines
    Mutant Vehicle pre-registration is mandatory. You will be asked to include photos or design sketches of your vehicle, describe the safety considerations you are making, give detailed information about the mutations to the vehicle.
  • Agree to Adhere to Black Rock City vehicle/driving protocols
    You will be asked in advance to honor the event’s driving guidelines.  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 Application Review

Once you have filled out a Mutant Vehicle Registration form, the DMV will review your application and notify you once we have come to a consensus as to whether and how well your vehicle meets the Mutant Vehicle Criteria and if it is invited to Burning Man.

The DMV Review Process is as follows:

  1. Registration Period
    The Mutant Vehicle Registration period will begin in late February/Early March and registration will be open until mid-April.  As we consistently receive more applications than our number of invites, the DMV will not accept late applications.
  2. Application Review
  • The DMV will begin reviewing applications in mid-March. The DMV Volunteers meet in Review Teams in groups of up to 25 for 2-hour review sessions and consider each vehicle application within the context of all the qualified applications we have received.  The Review Sessions take place every few days until the DMV has reached its limit of the number of vehicles it can invite for the year.
  • The Application Reviews consist of three rounds.  In each round, the DMV Review Teams will focus on selecting and the vehicles that most clearly meet or exceed the Mutant Vehicle criteria. Any vehicles which meet the criteria but to a lesser degree will be moved to a subsequent round.  We expect that approximately 50% of our Mutant Vehicle invites will come in the first round.  Another 25% in the second round and the final 25% in the 3rd round.
  • The Review Teams will read the application, review the vehicle design images and/or photographs, discuss the vehicle’s merits or concerns then come to a consensus as to whether and how well the vehicle meets the Mutant Vehicle Criteria and whether the vehicle should be invited for this year.
    • If the consensus of the review team is that the vehicle clearly meets/exceeds the MV criteria, the Mutant Vehicle will be invited in the current round.
    • If the consensus of the review team is that the vehicle clearly does NOT meet the MV criteria, the vehicle owner will be notified that their vehicle is not invited.
    • If the Review Team cannot reach a consensus, or there are concerns as to how well the vehicle meets the criteria, the vehicle will be moved to the next round and considered during that subsequent round.
    • If the Review Team feels an application is missing information that they need to make an informed decision, such as more information on the vehicles mutation, or detailed photos or design images, we will reach out to the Mutant Vehicle owner and give them an opportunity to provide that information.
  • Once the DMV had reached the limit of the vehicles it can invite for the year, the owners of any remaining outstanding Mutant Vehicle applications will be notified that they will not be invited for the year.  With the three round system, ALL vehicle applications will have been reviewed at least once before we reach this point.  Our goal is to make sure we are considering ALL of the vehicle applications submitted every year.

Mutant Vehicle Licenses

Mutant Vehicle licenses are issued by the DMV on-playa. 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.

Street/Playa-Only Licenses

  • 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 the vehicle while in operation.
  • A Playa-Only License allows a Mutant Vehicle to operate ONLY on the open playa of Black Rock City. Mutant Vehicles with a Playa-Only License may NOT be operated on BRC streets except on their way to the playa from their camp (using the most direct entry).  Playa-Only vehicles may require walkers/spotters.
    See: https://burningman.org/event/art-performance/mutant-vehicles/vehicle-rules-and-protocols/#walkers

Day/Night Licenses

  • DAY licenses allow Mutant Vehicles to move around Black Rock City during the daytime.
  • 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 (see above).
  • Some vehicles may receive both a DAY and a NIGHT 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

Flame Effects

Mutant Vehicles that incorporate flame effects must include flame effects information in their Mutant Vehicle application and also must be inspected on-playa and be granted a Flame Effects license from the Fire Arts Safety Team before the flame effects can be operated.

Important details for MV’s with Flame Effects

In order to protect your passengers from danger, the height of the first point of fire must be at least 10-feet above the last place a person could possibly stand on your vehicle. This allows plenty of height above heads and a little extra in case the wind presses it down a bit. This rule has been in place all along and this year we are going to be strict with this rule. Please take action to correct this pre-event if your MV flame effect is lower than 10-feet.

Use of Flame Effects within the City

Use of Flame Effects within the City streets can present a greater risk than they do on the open playa. As your mutant Vehicle passes into the City and you are driving in the narrow streets you are in a new set of risks. The flames that were well overhead height in on the open playa are now at face height or even below folks standing on scaffolds, fabric and banners can blow into the path of your flames and you are only inches away from other vehicles as you pass. Any of that sound dangerous? Well, it is! Please if your mutant vehicle has puffers please think twice about using them as you pass through the city. If you MV has a steady flame be aware of the wind blowing flammables into the flames and your proximity to things you are alongside. Any unsafe behaviour of any kind will not be permitted and may affect your ability to register your MV in the future.

Questions about Mutant Vehicle flame effects should be sent to dmv-flame-effects@burningman.org.

Additional driving guidelines, walker requirements and trailer safety

In addition to adhering to the driving rules indicated above, Mutant Vehicles must:

  • Create a clear field of vision for the operator
  • Have a safe access area and procedures for loading and unloading passengers
  • Clearly display the Mutant Vehicle license in a location specified by the DMV
  • Have ground guides (walkers) if the vehicle is large, has a limited field of vision or can be dangerous to pedestrians.

Trailer Safety and Barriers

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:

TRAILER BARRIER EXAMPLES

NOTE:  The above link shows just some examples.  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.

Walker Requirements

For vehicles that are large or in instances where the driver does not have a clear view of the front and back of the vehicle, walkers/spotters must be used at all times when the vehicle is in motion. The number of walkers required will vary based on the size and type of vehicle, but must be a sufficient number of people to ensure safe navigation.The walkers must have some type of markings or attire that will identify them as walkers for that particular vehicle.

Examples of markings/attire include:

  • Reflective safety vests
  • Brightly colored or reflective hats
  • Brightly colored or reflective bandannas
  • Brightly colored or reflective shirts

NOTE: A video surveillance system cannot be substituted for walkers.  At night Walkers must have flashlights for visibility and to be able to direct vehicles.

A Note on Mutant Vehicles and the Community

There has been a lot of discussion recently regarding the perception of Mutant Vehicles as ‘exclusive”.  We’ve heard a number of stories about someone walking in deep playa, seeing a Mutant Vehicle and asking for a ride, only to be told “sorry, this is a private party,” or something to that effect. While we know that most Mutant Vehicles are inclusive and do provide rides whenever possible (the DMV gets very few direct complaints about this type of incident), we want to be clear on the following:

In the spirit of Radical Inclusion, Participation and Gifting the DMV strongly encourages and expects Mutant Vehicle owners to share their Vehicles with others and give rides to those that need or ask whenever possible. This is also a great way to meet people and a wonderful show of our community. Proper etiquette should be followed; all participants should be allowed to ride Mutant Vehicles as long as there are not an unsafe number of passengers aboard at any given time or it would be otherwise dangerous to do so (prospective passenger being inebriated or belligerent, for example).

A great way to participate and share your Mutant Vehicle is to participate in Burn Area Imprecise Transit (BAIT).

Register Your Vehicle

Mutant Vehicle Registration for Burning Man is open from mid-February until mid-April each year.

After you have read and understood all of the above sections, go to the Questionnaire site for this year’s exact registration dates and to fill out a Mutant Vehicle application.

https://profiles.burningman.org/participate/brc/

If you have additional questions you can contact the DMV by emailing dmv@burningman.org.