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Apps hope for auto commuters

Rasheed Kappan BANGALORE: Jan 232, 2013 DHNS 2:01 IST
Mobile app  to hire an autorickshaw or complain against errant drivers. DH Photo
On-call taxi services in Bangalore had matured years ago as a mostly reliable parallel transport system. But not the ubiquitous autorickshaws, a majority of which preferred not to be controlled by a call or the click of a mouse.

This is now about to change, with the recent launch of a range of mobile apps by private agencies and the police to hire an autorickshaw or complain against errant drivers.

The “mGaadi” call auto service app started by City-based social enterprise (available free on Google Play Store), India Drivers Network in November 2013, and the Android app launched by the City Traffic Police as part of its “Happy Auto” campaign to review auto drivers and commuters’ auto experiences, could be game changers. But it was not so easy for the earlier projects such as the Easy Auto on-call service that kicked off in June 2007 and folded up later.

Launched by Internet World Wide, along with the city traffic police and Regional Transport Authority (RTA), Easy Auto was designed to make available a fleet of radio-fitted autorickshaws for customers who dial a call-centre number. The call centre was to relay the caller’s request to the nearest vehicle, so that the auto would be at the spot within a stipulated period. However, the service did not attract the planned 500 subscriptions from autorickshaw drivers. Nor did the proposed 1,500 Easy auto stands across the City materialise. It eventually folded up. Similar efforts were made by other players. But even till last year, the usage of such services was poor. A study by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Centre for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning (CiSTUP) had revealed that only 10 per cent of those surveyed had ever used the auto on-call service. Sixty per cent were not even aware of such a system. However, a high 75 per cent had acknowledged the merit of a structured interactive service that would negate the need to struggle on the road.
Happy Auto, the new Android app launched by the city police goes beyond hiring a vehicle. It helps passengers ensure that the drivers follow traffic rules and behave properly. Available for a free download on the Google Play Store, the app lets the auto passenger review a particular driver and enter the feedback.

If the review is good, the driver would be identified and rewarded “Happy Auto” stickers and other gifts. Autorickshaws could wear this sticker as a symbol of trust. The app has been downloaded in thousands and bears a 4.1 rating out of 5.

To file a complaint against errant drivers to the Regional Transport Office (RTO), “Auto Complaint Bangalore” is a popular App with over 5,000 downloads and a 4.5 rating. This application makes it easy for passengers to quickly send an email. Another android app of the same name helps in complaining about excess fares.

The CiSTUP study had established that refusal to come on hire, overcharing and tampered / faulty meters were the most common complaints of auto passengers. A substantial 44 per cent of the respondents had experienced refusal. While a majority said the traffic police were not helpful in addressing their complaints, only 26 per cent were even aware of the public complaint numbers to report the errant drivers.

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