Ride apps turn a game changer for auto drivers

AuSa, to be launched on Feb. 17, to ensure safe ride for commuters

The foray of online ride booking apps is expected to be a game changer in the way commuters avail autorickshaw services in the Greater Kochi area.

Three ride apps, including a recently launched one, have already brought some solace to the harried auto drivers who had to wait for hours at junctions, awaiting their turn to ferry commuters. The Ernakulam District Autorickshaw Drivers Cooperative Society, a conclave of half-a-dozen driver unions, will launch AuSa, its much-awaited app, on February 17.

โ€œA total of 1,000 autos have been operating on the basis of the app for the past few months. It will be formally launched on February 17, the second anniversary of the societyโ€™s launch. It was readied in tandem with a private technology firm as partner. We foresee increase in patronage for autos, since commuters will be picked from their destinations, and they will be able to travel at pre-fixed rates, just as in online taxi cabs. This will also lessen the unending wait at stands,โ€ said M.B. Syamandabhadran, an office-bearer of the society.

It will also ensure a safe ride for commuters, since the identity of the driver will be known. The revenue model for the app is expected to be announced shortly.

โ€œOur autorickshaw category has surpassed pre-lockdown levels thanks to doorstep pick-up, safe and contactless payment, and affordable fares. We hope to promote e-hail over the traditional street hail model for autorickshaws, especially in the new normal. This growth augurs well for driver-partners too, because it creates livelihood opportunities for them,โ€ said a spokesperson of Uber.

Apart from safety screens, the firm has a set of safety measures, such as the Go Online Checklist, a mandatory mask policy for both riders and drivers, pre-trip mask verification selfies for drivers and riders, and mandatory driver education on safety SOPs. It has also updated its cancellation policy allowing both riders and drivers to cancel trips if they do not feel safe, driving a shared sense of responsibility, the spokesperson added.

Ola too has more or less recovered from the steep lull in demand during the peak-pandemic situation. โ€œWe staged a comeback in Kochi, and 600 of our autos are in operation, as compared to 700 earlier. More drivers are coming forward to attach with our platform. The impending arrival of e-autos will further boost patronage for autos,โ€ he said.

The latest online entrant is Jugnoo, which, its promoters say, has so far arrayed 200 autos. โ€œThe service will for now be available only in Kochi city. The firm has also tied up with 50 shops which will book rides for their customers who are not net-savvy. Drivers are getting attracted, since we charge less than half the commission charged by many online platforms,โ€ said Shajo Jose, secretary, Online Cab Drivers Association.

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