The “projectCAR" platform converted a 1983 Volvo station wagon into a “Commuter Art Rig,” creating a test bed for designers to explore interactions between people, vehicles and traffic. While traveling alone together on the choked LA freeways, drivers and passengers are familiar strangers participating in a regular, large-scale social event known as rush hour, rarely engaging in memorable exchanges. Rather than accept the isolating forces created by the steel and glass and culture of the automobile, projectCAR seeks to engage commuters in acts of public participation on the road. The first project designed for the projectCAR platform thrusts the intimate out into the open, engaging commuters by creating a public space for posting “sins” to the scrolling LED marquee. The car becomes a mobile confessional, straddling a sense of irony and seriousness, mixing the sacred act of contrition with the voyeuristic gossip-consumed culture of Hollywood.Commuters that see the LED sign in the back of the Volvo can call into a local number as the car drives through rush hour LA traffic. Callers hear the following voicemail message:
“Welcome to the Mobile Confessional. Our service provides callers an anonymous place to confess their sins to the world while commuting in Los Angeles. Your confession – and an appropriate penance – will be scrolled across the electronic sign in the back of the mobile confessional vehicle. Please, take a moment to share your sins with the world, so that all may forgive you."
Those that wish to participate may then leave a voicemail message. The transcribed confession is then immediately posted to the sign with “an appropriate penance,” written in response to each confession scrolled after it. When new confessions are not available, older ones are rotated through the display. The platform’s potential impact was apparent from the moment that the projectCAR was taken out on the streets and tested. The sheer oddity inherent in the concept of a mobile confessional was enough for people to alter their driving patterns, pulling back to pace the car, presumably to read the confessions. Realistically, most of the commuters that see the car will not call in, but they participate by reading the sign, adapting their driving habits, and perhaps even turning their minds to the commuters surrounding them for a moment while wondering which stranger sent in the last confession.
Design by Kurt MacDonald, Garrett Rodrigue, Susana Ruiz, and Kellee Santiago, with support from Julian Bleecker.