Innovation

Tesla Cybertruck: Why cops around the world will be most loyal customers

Elon Musk's upcoming electric vehicle is sparking police interest.

The Tesla Cybertruck could be the next-coveted vehicle for the police. Authorities around the world are expressing their desire to buy up Musk's electric pickup truck, whether they need the added power or otherwise.

CEO Elon Musk unveiled the all-electric vehicle at the company's California design studio in November 2019. The $39,900 truck, set to start hitting roads in late 2021, features an angular design with its cold-rolled 30X steel "exoskeleton" exterior, apparently tough enough to withstand a shot from a nine-millimeter handgun. Its "transparent metal" glass windows can take a hit from a metal ball, as long as the glass hasn't been weakened ahead of time. It can beat a Ford F-150 in a tug of war. It looks badass.

Perhaps no surprise, then, that law enforcement are starting to express interest. Teslarati notes that a series of authorities have voiced their support:

  • Ciudad Valles authorities in Mexico have ordered 15 Cybertrucks.
  • A trooper from Kansas Highway Patrol declared his support for a Cybertruck patrol vehicle.
  • The Dubai Police Force has also produced a mockup of a Cybertruck in official colors.

The Ontario Provincial Police has also produced a mockup of the Cybertruck kitted out for police work:

Police cars have come a long way since an Ohio town first used a car to pick up a drunk man in 1899. Today's vehicles come in a variety of shapes, from the Italian traffic police sporting Lamborghinis to the Bugatti Veyrons used by the United Arab Emirates.

Defender Supply is one supplier of police vehicles for American law enforcement. The firm offers a number of vehicles that could be considered as a competitor to the Cybertruck. They include the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Tahoe and Dodge Charger.

"Ford, Chevy and Dodge trucks are equally requested for both law enforcement and fire department use," a Defender Supply spokesperson tells Inverse. "The selection of one over the other generally is driven by initial cost, cost of operation and the certifications held by the departments fleet technicians for repairs and service."

Considering the current market, it's clear why the Cybertruck appeals. But the race to invest in a machine that looks like something out of a dystopian sci-fi film is perhaps cause for concern. Radley Balko, author of 2013 book Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces, tells Inverse that there are two arguments against police kitting themselves in military equipment. The first is it's inappropriate, as police have little use for a tank or a .50-cal weapon. The second is that it could create a worrying mindset.

"When cops get equipment that's designed to look menacing and intimidating, it can instill a battlefield mentality -- in both officers and the communities they serve," Balko says. "It's hard to object to police using armored vehicles if they aren't also equipped with weapons of war (like gun turrets), and if they aren't designed to look militaristic."

Although it's marketed as a civilian vehicle, the Cybertruck does have some militaristic associations. Musk suggested the month before the unveiling that it would look like “an armored personnel carrier from the future,” referring to a battlefield vehicle used to transport a large number of people. During the launch, Musk referred to the glass as "armored." However, Musk pushed back against reports prior to launch that he was "pitching" the Cybertruck to the military during a November 2019 event.

"From what I know of the Tesla truck, it seems to pass both tests," Balko says. "The main issue is probably its cost. But that's a different discussion."

The Cybertruck's high performance could hold value beyond militaristic capabilities. The mayor of Ciudad Valles, Adrián Esper Cárdenas, said at the time of the order that the vehicle was "common sense." While they will be used primarily for the police, they will also assist in moving garbage containers and water pipes.

But considering the large amount of social media interest from these authorities' mockups – Dubai Police received over 14,000 likes – perhaps the biggest value from declaring interest in the Cybertruck is a boosted public image.

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