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Cover Story - Auto Rickshaws: Boon Or Bane?

  • Jul 22, 2019
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Four wheels are better than three. Or are they?



The last five years have seen a radical change in India’s transport sector. Tier 1 and even some Tier 2 cities have been hit by the Ola/Uber fever which has posed a very serious question. Are auto rickshaws obsolete or are they still an integral part of the transport sector in India? In the auto rickshaw vs taxi battle, there are key points to consider. The start-up cost involved and maintenance, fuel consumption, load capacity and the biggest factor of them all, Indian roads.


Those who earn their bread and butter by driving auto rickshaws and taxis are from the economically weaker sections of society. Henceforth, the initial investment required for buying an auto rickshaw or a taxi is crucial. The most basic model of an auto rickshaw (petrol) costs Rs 1.5 lakh to buy. The price for the least expensive taxi (Alto 800) is Rs 2.51 lakh. For the sake of comparison, we are taking ex-showroom prices and have not added the costs of registration in the given figures. Talking about maintenance, it is a no-brainer that an auto rickshaw is a less complex vehicle than even the Alto 800. Less complex parts and a small engine size again result in lesser maintenance costs. An average auto rickshaw weighs 350kg while the basic Alto 800 weighs 695kg. The auto rickshaw has a smaller engine and weighs less, a perfect mix for a vehicle to have higher fuel efficiency than the competition.


Talking about load capacity, basic auto rickshaws are designed to accommodate three passengers plus the driver. The Alto 800 can seat four passengers plus the driver. The fourth and last point on the agenda is Indian roads. Talk to your friends or family living in the most developed cities in India like New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. The one common thing they will all tell you are the traffic problems they face. The size of the roads remains the same while the number of vehicles that ply on said roads are increasing every year. The auto rickshaw is smaller than a taxi and if they are phased out and replaced by taxis, it will only add to the traffic problems that plague these cities. Also, auto rickshaws really help in improving last-mile connectivity to areas that have narrow lanes and are often inaccessible by cars.


Auto rickshaws have a few setbacks. For example, they are driven in a maniacal manner on roads and often cause traffic problems near auto stands. These, however, are problems that can be tackled with driver training and proper implementation of traffic laws. To conclude, auto rickshaws require less amount of money to buy and maintain, are more fuel efficient than taxis, can seat almost as many passengers as a taxi and help in saving space on cluttered Indian roads. Having so many advantages, we firmly believe that the auto rickshaw still has a place on Indian roads.

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