Uber India ride-hailing service now includes auto rickshaws
Ailing ride-hailing company, Uber, which has had a particularly bad bout in India, is not giving up. The country is, after all, the company’s second largest global market because of its low car ownership and inadequate public transport system. In an unprecedented move for the San Francisco-based company, uberAUTO was launched last Thursday, an additional feature that allows customers to use the app to hail auto rickshaws in Delhi.
The 18.2 million denizens of the Indian capital city rely on the yellow-and-green vehicles for daily commute. It’s not uncommon to see auto-rickshaws outnumbering other types of vehicles on most of the roads in India, and they are notorious for ignoring road rules, making them the leading cause of traffic accidents in the country. But that’s another story…
The new Uber service is not just different in that it allows users to hail a ride on one of these machines of the three-wheel variety, instead of four, but it also allows users to pay cash instead of adhering to the company’s standard cashless model. For its usual service, Uber users are required to pay their fares using a credit card or a local online payment service, but India is still largely a cash-reliant economy. Fares for uberAUTO will be calculated by meters that are set according to state tariffs.
UberAUTO is not unique though. One of Uber’s main rivals in India, Ola, already has a similar operation, called OlaAuto, in six cities. It claims to have as many as 40,000 autos signed up to offer their service through its app and has even extended payment options to include online payments. But OlaAuto charges a “convenience fee” of 10 rupees while Uber has said that there will be no additional charge, not even a booking fee, attached to uberAuto.
Uber has continued to operate in Delhi even after a ban on unlicensed ride-booking apps was imposed in December, after allegations of rape committed by an Uber driver was reported. Despite insisting that it is a tech – not a taxi – company, Uber had nonetheless applied to become a licensed radio taxi operator. The application was (and is) still pending when Uber resumed operations in India, and the company has received warnings from the authorities to cease operations until the license is approved. These warnings doesn’t seem to deter Uber from carrying on with business as usual, but in February, the app featured a new virtual panic button and a ‘safety net’ which lets friends of the passenger monitor the trip.