Is An Elevator A Vehicle?

Illustration for article titled Is An Elevator A Vehicle?
CountersteerYour true stories of good and bad things that happen in cars.

Okay, everybody, put down your Game Boys and hash pipes and satisfyingly heavy rubber mallets and listen up, because I have an important question. A question about vehicles, and how we classify what is or isn’t a vehicle. So, here goes: is an elevator a vehicle?

I’ve talked to people who hold diametrically opposed views on this subject, though they both can find common ground in the belief that it’s an idiotic question. I’m not so sure it’s idiotic, though; I think it’s a compelling question.

Personally, I think I’m in the camp that considers an elevator a vehicle. It’s essentially like a vertically-oriented tram. You physically get inside it to move, and you can even sort of ‘drive’ it, via the buttons. It’s a one-dimensional vehicle, sure, but so are a lot of horizontal trams and people-mover trains, and we consider those vehicles.


An escalator, on the other hand, I do not think is a vehicle. The anti-elevator-as-vehicle lobby will often try and use the escalator to nullify vehicular status for the escalator, in that both are systems integrated into a building for moving people. I think the difference here is that an escalator never moves; the range of travel is limited to the machine itself, and you just step on and off its moving surface, but the actual machine is stationary.

Illustration for article titled Is An Elevator A Vehicle?

I guess you could argue the same about an elevator, too, in that if we consider the shaft an integral part of the design, you’re only moving within the space of the machine itself.

Dammit, now I’m killing my own argument.

Okay, but wait; trains aren’t all that different, and those are clearly vehicles! The train can only run on its track, and the track is essentially analogous to the elevator shaft!


Here’s a little thought-experiment: imagine a building where, instead of conventional elevators, there were rockets held captive in shafts, serving the same purpose as elevators. (You know, before they killed everyone.) Those are clearly vehicles, and an elevator isn’t that different, it just uses a cable-propulsion system instead of chemical rockets?

Hm. That’s kind of a stupid thought experiment. Anyway, I just want to hear how you think of all this: are elevators vehicles?


I’m hoping the Otis people notice this so they can send me some press elevators to try out.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!:

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


General Purpose

Love this, Torch. I for one can’t wait for some elevator reviews.

Give us some juicy 0-60th floor times. Slalom is going to be tricky, though.