3/12/21 Motorized Couch

Nathan Peercy drives his motorized couch around campus on Friday. 

West Lafayette police stopped a motorized couch driving down Stadium Avenue Wednesday afternoon — the same couch featured in an Exponent video two days ago. 

Seniors and couch-creators Ethan Cox and Nathan Peercy said earlier this week they built the motorized couch after an initial plan to drag it from the back of a car. After Cox realized there would be no good way to stop or steer a couch in that fashion, they decided to "retrofit" a go-kart motor and garden cart, and place their loveseat on top of it by putting the legs through drilled holes in a two-by-four. 

While the couch may be fitted with four wheels and an engine, it doesn't necessarily count as a car, the West Lafayette Police Department said.

Juniors Alexis Noirot and Madison Gritton said they borrowed the "couch-cart" on Wednesday to cruise around campus. Then the chain slipped off the motor.

While the two worked to get the chain back on, they said a police car drove past them twice, presumably to get a better look at the makeshift vehicle. Soon after the couch-cart was back up and running, the pair was approached by two WLPD officers on motorcycles.

"Please pull to the side," Gritton recalled hearing, holding her hand up to her mouth during a Zoom call to mimic a police microphone. 

Gritton said neither of the women had their driver's licenses on them, but were unsure what difference that would have made. 

Gritton said the officer first approached them and said, "This is a first for me."

"This is a first for me too," Gritton recalls replying. "I've never been pulled over on a motorized couch before."

The officer did not ticket the two, Noirot said, but told them to keep the couch off the streets in the future because it isn't street-legal. 

Once police left, the two were forced to make the long trip back to the couch-cart's home on Russell Street by driving on sidewalks. This became an issue when they had a standoff with a Starship robot, Noirot said.

After successfully navigating around the food delivery robot, the couch-cart broke down again. They pushed it the rest of the way. 

WLPD Lt. Jon Eager said police stopped the couch because it didn't have the "necessary information or registration for a vehicle." In order to be street-legal, it must have proper lights and markings, and the engine must be of a certain cylinder size, Eager said. 

Eager said he was not sure of the specific engine regulations. 

Even if Cox and Peercy's couch fit that description, Eager seemed skeptical about its potential to be registered as a vehicle. 

"The DMV's not gonna register a couch as a vehicle," he said. "Now, you can make something look like a couch, but I'd be amazed (if the DMV registered it)."

Boilermakers have been seeing the couch zooming around campus for weeks now, whether it was driving students to and from class or being taken for a cozy joyride. Peercy said the top speed is around 10-12 miles per hour, but according to Cox, the handling is "terrible."

"It just really hates turning," Cox said. "You gotta take it pretty slow. Take it pretty wide."

When The Exponent initially published this story, many readers went to Facebook to assert that the couch in question is actually a loveseat. 

But the two rogue riders who encountered police on Wednesday had an answer for that.

"A couch is a couch," Noirot said.

Gritton worried that referring to it as a loveseat would ruin the alliteration. 

"What kind of name is 'loveseat cart'?" she asked. "Ew, no thank you. Couch-cart." 

The two confirmed that the "cart" in couch-cart should be spelled with a c — not a k. 

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