Self-driving bumper cars from The Netherlands at SXSW!

Bumper Ballet is a bumper car track with the world’s first self-driving bumper cars, created by Dutch new media art collective DROPSTUFF MEDIA. Between 15 and 21 March 2020, these AI-driven bumper cars can be seen at SXSW 2020, one of the most innovative art and technology festivals in the world.

Dancing & bumping: when autonomous technology takes over
Initially, these bumper cars function as normal as participants can drive the cars around the track. After a few minutes, the system takes over and both the steering wheel and the gas pedal no longer work. From that point on the cars perform a dance: a bumper car ballet in which the cars perform a choreography of movements. A self-learning system in combination with location tracking ensures that the cars always return to their original starting points. They move, collide and dance to the music and images of the “Dansende DAFjes”: an adaptation of a video from the ’70s by the famous Dutch car company DAF.

Bumper Ballet playfully tackles the implications of current emerging autonomous technology. As participants become a direct subject to the cars, they experience first hand what it means to ‘lose control’ when the system takes over.

Bumper Ballet is the latest instalment of ‘The Fair Grounds‘. The Fair Grounds is an artistic project consisting of multiple installations where traditional amusement rides have been updated with new artistic or social narratives. The result is a truly new fairground, where every ride has been modified or enhanced and tells a surprising story in the public space: popular culture meets high tech and high art!  By combining these worlds, The Fair Grounds creates a broader, more inclusive artistic place where one’s own experience is key: to see, touch, hear, taste and experience it for yourself.

The installation has been realized in collaboration with Eindhoven Museum, Peter de Man and Thomas van den Berg. It’s realization was supported by the VSBfonds and the BankGiro Loterij Fonds. The presentation at SXSW is made possible by Creative Industries Fund NL.