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Texas gives stamp of approval to autocycle

Is innovation in the United States dead? If you believe a lot of headlines generated in the past decade or so you might think it is. Not everyone shares the view, of course. There have been a lot of headlines recently around self-driving vehicles and new vehicle alternatives. We've tried to highlight some of them here, including one centered on a three-wheeled vehicle concept called the Elio.

Clever ideas are always interesting, but as our post observed they may not be worth too much attention if they stand little chance of actually making it to market. A lot of hurdles can get in the way of an idea taking off. In the case of the Elio, it appears one hurdle has been cleared.

While not specifically citing the Elio by name, the Texas Department of Public Safety recently announced that the Legislature created a new vehicle designation for the so-called autocycle during the last session. Its description appears to all but put a stamp of approval on the Elio and also the Polaris Slingshot.

According to the DPS, an autocycle is a motorized vehicle with no more than three wheels touching the ground. It is steered like a car. It also has seats that don't require the driver or passenger to straddle the seat. It's interesting to note, though, that it must comply with federal safety requirements -- not for cars, but for motorcycles.

Because of that last provision, the state says autocycles will be titled and registered as motorcycles. No special license is required, but wearing a helmet might be required. Drivers 21 and over can earn an exception by getting a certificate of motorcycle training, but the law also stipulates that police can't stop a motor or autocycle operator who isn't wearing a helmet just to see if they have the certification.

One thing that seems to differentiate the Elio from other autocycles is that it is fully enclosed and has airbags. That would seem to be a plus if one is involved in an injury-causing accident.

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