Chennai autos to now have tablets, GPS systems and electronic billing
CHENNAI: Tablets, GPS systems, electronic billing on autos help customers. “Cars have all the latest technology updates whereas autos don’t have such facility & that’s why we wanted to bring this system into autos. After work, drivers can use the tablets for own use” Mansoor Ali Khan Chairman, Makkal Auto.
Autorickshaw drivers of Chennai have gained notoriety for being pushy and rude. But of late, entrepreneurs are trying to give the trade an image makeover by using technology to offer better services to passengers.
After the state pushed autodrivers to use meters in 2013, the business opportunity lured private players who, in turn, bought in technological innovation. Namma Auto, one of the early entrants, became popular among commuters because of its billing system. Its autos were fitted with electronic meters that generated bills informing passengers of the distance travelled and time taken, among other things.
The Namma Auto vehicles also come with GPS tracking systems. “We can track where the autos are moving and also at what speed they are moving. We monitor each and every aspect,” said Mohamed Ali Farook, one of the directors of Namma Auto.
The autos have also been provided with a “panic button” for the commuter, which can send distress signals in stantly to the company’s call centre in case of an emergency. There are about 127 Namma autos plying in the city currently and this number is likely to go up to 500 vehicles in two months.
Makkal Auto, another player that entered the market last year, decided to do away with meters and use tablets instead. Once the commuter boards the auto, the tablet is switched on and gives them details of the fare, information about the driver and places of historic interest. It displays advertisements. “Around 20 consumer durable firms and real estate firms advertise on our tablets and commuters get to flip and see them during their travel,” said A Mansoor Ali Khan, chairman of Makkal Auto.
“Cars have all the latest technology updates whereas autos don’t have such facility and that’s why we wanted to bring this system into autos. After work, the drivers can use the tablets for their personal use.” Makkal Auto, which has a fleet of 150 vehicles, has installed software in the tablets that can help the commuter to quickly click a picture and transmit it to the company’s call centre in case of an emergency.
Chennai-based Auto Raja and Auto Rani allow commuters to send an SMS or email to request for an auto. Auto Raja has tied-up with around 1,300 autos and of that seven are driven by women. Another 30 women are getting trained to be a part of this network. With close to six players already entering the autorickshaw market with innovative ideas, the field looks wide open.
Christopher Kost, technical director at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy , said: “This is an untapped market and that is why many private players are entering this space. When taxi services are available at cheaper costs with technology why not autos. It is easier to set up an IT-based system as many have access to cell phones today.”
Chennai has around one lakh autos as on date. Of this, 75,000 are registered and the remaining unregistered. According to estimates, this sector supports over 5 lakh family members generating revenue of Rs 1,500 crore per year. Of this, the new entrants have around 2,500 autos and this number is expected to touch 5,000 by end of this year.
The taxi market, which has already tried out some of these innovations, has close to 100 players in the city.