A few months ago, Google put out an open call in Austin for locals to design artwork for their new self-driving cars, turning the vehicles into “moving pieces of public art.” The theme (they needed a theme?) was “my community, my neighbors,” and the call seems to have gotten a decent response from Austin artists.
Of course, Google is drawing on a longstanding tradition of art cars in Texas. The Houston Art Car Parade is the granddaddy of the genre, from its scruffy origins in 1984 to the current mega-event, with participants from all over the country joining a long tradition of locals showing off low riders, SLABs, dryly conceptual cars and cornball, painted hippy love vans. (Austin itself once had its own parade, now defunct.) With this project, Google won’t do much to stem the tide of complaints that art cars have simply become marketing vehicles (pun intended) for corporate juggernauts; but Google will probably succeed in getting extra attention for their new self-driving cars, and their drivers will be able to enjoy the knowledge that their car, or at least their car door, is expressing something while they insouciantly text behind the wheel.
The winning designs for the Google cars were announced recently and come from six different artists: Annette Neu, Anna Vaught, Andy Nelson, Catherine Malloy, Cathy Carr Haynes, and Florence Swanson. Can’t wait to see all that “art” next time we’re cruising through town! Thanks, Google!
Check out all of the Austin winners and honorable mentions here.