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Does it matter how a motor vehicle is defined?

You don't have to know Shakespeare to appreciate that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. It's not the label you put on a rose that gives it its lovely odor. The name bristly roadweed could be applied just as easily and the thorny bush would prick just as hard and the flower would smell the same. So why is there such a big stink over what to call the Elio?

In case you have never heard of it, the Elio is a vehicle that is currently not much more than a concept. There are some demonstration models on the road, but they haven't been mass-produced. Indeed, the company just unveiled the prototype of the engine it hopes will drive the three-wheeled machine earlier this month.

So what's holding things up? Well, a lot of states aren't sure how to register the Elio. By some standards, it might be a motorcycle. But it doesn't require the operator or passenger to straddle the engine the way you would a normal motorcycle. In addition, the company says the Elio has a fully enclosed cab with windshield and wipers, seats, seatbelts, a steering wheel, and safety air bags. In short, the company says it would be an alternative vehicle, but one that exceeds federal motorcycle safety standards.

As a result of the confusion or perhaps because of it, Elio Motors is in the midst of a major push to have state legislatures around the country adopt and accept as a valid motor vehicle a thing called an "autocycle." Not surprisingly, the definition exactly describes the Elio.

Now, fans of three-wheeled motorcycles may recall that Texas has rejected a bid to allow the Polaris Slingshot on state roads. The Department of Motor Vehicles says it just doesn't fit any definition of a motor vehicle on the books. However, Elio officials say they received confirmation that the Elio will be OK to register as a motorcycle in the state.

If that proves to be true, and if the company ever gets its low-priced, high-mpg vehicle into production, it's likely that the Elio will be seen around San Antonio. And when they are involved in accidents that result in serious injury or death, victims will have the right to enlist help to pursue fair compensation for losses caused by negligent drivers.

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