You may have seen a new category of motor vehicle on the highway that has three wheels, a steering wheel, and a driver’s seat that is neither car, nor motorcycle. There are several manufacturers of these vehicles such as Elio Motors of Louisiana, and Polaris industries of Minnesota which makes its “Slingshot” model. The Pennsylvania legislature created a definition for this new category of motor vehicle called an “autocycle” effective July 25, 2016. Under Pennsylvania law, an “autocycle” is defined as “[a] three wheeled motorcycle that has a steering wheel and seating that does not require the operator to straddle or sit astride.” 75 Pa.C.S. Section 102.
Currently 31 states have statutory definitions for autocycles. All 31 states require an autocycle to have three wheels, and all but three require a steering wheel. Otherwise, there is little uniformity in statutory requirements from state to state for such things as seat belts, enclosure, side-by-side or tandem seating, manufacturer installed airbags, manufacturer installed roll cages, seat belts, antilock brakes, headlamps, windshields, windshield wipers. Pennsylvania law only requires three wheels, a steering wheel, and seating for the operator to straddle or sit astride.
The hybrid nature of this new category of motor vehicle is illustrated by the fact that Pennsylvania requires an autocycle to be registered as a motorcycle, but does not require a motorcycle license, (Class M) to operate it. A Class C license is all that is required. It is also important to note that one cannot take a driver’s test in an autocycle in Pennsylvania for either Class C, or Class M license. In addition, because an autocycle is classified as a motorcycle, it is not required to meet the Pennsylvania standards for a Class C passenger vehicle.
In addition, under Pennsylvania law, an operator of an autocycle is prohibited from allowing a child under the age of eight years of age to be a passenger in an autocycle if the child would be required to be secured in a passenger car seat. 75 Pa.C.S. Section 3527.