Auto rickshaws are stepping up their game following the increased usage of cab-hailing applications like Ola, TaxiForSure and Uber.  Bangalore-based autorickshaw hailing application mGaadi has signed up with Bangalore police to revive the prepaid autorickshaw system in a bid to regulate one of the most notorious public transport systems in the city, reports the Economic Times.

mGaadi will run prepaid stands in 18 areas as a pilot for 12 months, B Dayanand, Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic), told the publication. Under the new system, the rides in autos will have details which include the fare, distance and destination, said Solomon Prakash, co-founder of mGaadi. The rides will also include a receipt at the end of the trip and passengers will also get to rate the drivers via SMS. The initiative also has backing from an auto rickshaw drivers union in the city.

Last year in May, mGaadi raised seed stage funding from Unitus Seed Fund and claims to have about 9,000 drivers in its network. The company says you can get a real-time update of the driver count operating on the network through their Android and Windows Phone app.

Our take

There were some questions which were left unanswered about safety.This is a welcome move on the part of the Bangalore Police considering they’re trying to fix one of Bangalore’s transportation problems. mGaadi, however, has not elaborated on the passenger safety front. Is there a dedicated panic/ SOS button or a helpline for reporting accidents and driver harassment?

Prepaid autos in the city spluttered to a halt in 2013 because drivers would not always find passengers in their desired areas. This meant less drivers on the auto stand. How will mGaadi manage driver refusal? The Bangalore Traffic Police in its earlier experiment had to man the prepaid auto stands to make sure passengers could get a ride.

Ola in Bangalore also operates in this space and has on-demand autorickshaw service on its mobile app. However Ola’s in-app wallet doesn’t work here and users have to currently pay the auto driver through cash. We wonder if mGaadi can simplify payments in autos and reduce the use of cash.

Other players

Earlier last year, Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) had also launched an Android app called PoochO that enabled Delhi commuters to locate auto rickshaws near them, contact them, and book trips. It also provided information on estimated fare, trip distance, travel time, and traffic condition on any selected route. PoochO doesn’t charge any fee, though commuters need to pay for the extra distance travelled by the auto to reach them.

There is also Pune-based Autowale which offers door-to-door pickup and drop services, along with hourly packages and the ability to book autos on a recurring basis.