Mutant Vehicle Criteria and Licensing

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

How do you get a 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).
  • 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 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.
  • Go 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
    1. 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 most cases, little or none of the base vehicle should be visible.
    2. Notes:
      • 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 or fur, 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 examples of Art Cars that applied, but did not meet Mutant Vehicle Criteria, please see: DMV NOT INVITED GALLERY.
      • Consideration may be given to vehicles that are presented outside of their normal context.
      • Beyond just changing, covering or hiding the base vehicle, 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!”
  2. Interactivity
    1. 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:

    1. The vehicle must be able to maintain a steady speed of five MPH (the speed limit in Black Rock City) or less.
    2. Brakes must be in good working order.
    3. The vehicle should have sturdy side railings and stair railings. There should be no sharp or protruding objects.
    4. Having a fire extinguisher and First Aid kit on board is highly recommended.
    5. The vehicle should have a safe access area and procedures for loading and unloading passengers.
    6. For safety requirements of lasers mounted on Mutant Vehicles, please see Mounted Lasers.
    7. 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.
  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:
      1.  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.
      2. The lighting itself is the “art” (such as the Death Star)
    3. In either case, the vehicle should be easily seen from all sides from some distance away.
  5. Sound
    1. 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.

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. Agree to 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 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.  THe DMV will begin considering 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.  The remainder of the applications will be reviewed after the Registration period closes.  Processing of the vast majority of vehicles will wait until the application period has closed, so earlier submissions have no advantage over the last-minute entries.
  2. Application Review
    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 3 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.

    1. 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.
      1. 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.
      2. 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.
      3. 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.
        1. 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.
    2. 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.
  3. General Considerations
    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 will also be looking for vehicles that have good execution of their design concept. We will also be considering 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.

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. 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-Only 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 the vehicle while in operation.
  2. 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.

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 (see above).
  3. 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.

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 12 inches from the ground and a maximum height of 36 inches or a height equal to the maximum height of the Mutant Vehicle (this is intended to accommodate very low vehicles). The barrier must be in place before the vehicle moves and must remain in place at all times when the vehicle is in motion.


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.

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

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.


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