A Short History of Three-Wheeled Cop Cars

Segway's new three-wheeled patroller isn't an innovation so much as a knock-off.

The new Segway SE-3. Segway

Segways were supposed to revolutionize human mobility. Now, 13 years after the two-wheeled “project Ginger” turned out to be a niche product for shopping-mall security guards and walk-less walking tours, Segway has launched a three-wheeled transporter.

First announced more than a year ago and called the Segway SE-3 patroller, it is currently available only to law-enforcement agencies, at $12,000 each. Segway has more than 1,500 law enforcement clients, according to the company website.

But the third wheel isn’t an innovation so much as a knock-off. California-based T3 Motion has been marketing a three-wheeled transporter to public-safety officials since 2006. Here’s what the T3 Patroller looks like in operation by a police officer in Miami:

The T3 Patroller in operation by a Miami-Dade police officer. T3 Motion

And here’s one in use by a New York City cop:

NYPD on a T3. Leo Mirani

In 2010, the New York Times reported that a T3 patroller cost around $9,000. T3 says it has “deployed” 5,000 units to 30 countries.

Neither of these vehicles—which we've heard police officers refer to as “tridents”—were pioneers in the field of single-rider, three-wheeled cop transport. The Cushman truckster has been used by law enforcement since the 1960s (paywall), but production ceased in the early 2000sCanada’s Westward Industries makes the Go-4 Interceptor, the three-wheeled car New Yorkers and San Franciscans see zipping around handing out tickets.

An NYPD Go-4 Interceptor. Vincent Desjardins

This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

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About the Author

  • David Yanofsky is a reporter creating data driven graphics and features for Quartz.