93-year-old senior living resident wins Google contest

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Florence Swanson poses with a framed version of her design in front of a Google car.
Florence Swanson poses with a framed version of her design in front of a Google car.

A design by a 93-year-old independent living community resident will be featured on the side of Google's prototype self-driving car in Austin, TX, early next year.

Florence Swanson is one of six artists whose illustrations were chosen by the technology company to be featured on the driverless cars. Her design (pictured below), according to Google, is a scene familiar to many Austin residents: a man with his guitar. Indeed, Swanson told Google her inspiration came from living in Austin, often called the live music capital of the world.

In September, Google launched “Paint the Town: Austin” and invited local residents to transform the prototype vehicles into moving pieces of public art. Artists submitted their visions centered around the theme “My community, My neighbors.”

Google began testing the cars in Austin — with drivers aboard — in September as part of its Self-Driving Car Project. The prototype tests followed about two months of testing self­-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs in the Texas city. Austin is the first location outside of the company's headquarters in Mountain View, CA, in which the vehicles have been tested on city streets.

“We can't wait to see these local designs on the cars around town,” said Jennifer Haroon, head of business for the Google project, said of the Austin contest winners.

This past weekend, Google celebrated the artists as part of the East Austin Studio Tour, where mounted versions of their artwork were displayed. Along with having their art featured on Google cars, each of the artists will receive a $500 gift card and will have the opportunity to ride in one of the vehicles.

Other winners include a recent University of Texas graduate, an artist from Art from the Streets — a free and open studio that serves the homeless community — as well as professional artists and designers. Coincidentally, two of the winners are mother and daughter.

Google held a similar contest in Mountain View, CA.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight's Senior Living. Follow her on Twitter at @Lois_Bowers.
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