In a first for Uber Technologies, the ride-finding service Thursday launched uberAUTO, allowing customers to use its app to hail three-wheeled auto rickshaws in India’s capital city and pay in cash.
The service, the only one of its kind offered by Uber globally, breaks away from the company’s cashless-payment model. Riders must pay cash to drivers of vehicles known in the city as autos. Fares will be charged by meter according to state-set tariffs. For Uber’s other services, customers are billed through credit cards or a local online-payment service, Paytm.
“Autos are an iconic and ubiquitous part of the Delhi landscape and we are excited to have them as another option on the Uber platform,” Uber said in a statement Thursday. The company didn’t say how many auto drivers would participate.
Thousands of people in New rely on the green-and-yellow auto rickshaws for their daily commute, but they often complain about drivers who refuse to use meters and instead bargain over fares. Uber’s app will allow riders to book an auto and pay the metered fare in cash. They will also be able to rate the driver at the end of the journey, as on other Uber services.
Uber’s main domestic competitors, ANI Technologies’ Ola, already operates a similar service, known as OlaAuto, in six Indian cities, including Delhi. Last month, Ola also gave its auto passengers the option for cashless travel using an online-payment system. Ola charges a “convenience fee” of 10 rupees, or about 16 cents, on top of the meter fare.
Uber said Thursday that it would charge “no booking fee or additional charge to clients.”
Uber and Ola are operating in Delhi despite a ban on unlicensed app-based car-booking services imposed by authorities in December after a female passenger alleged that she had been raped by an Uber driver. The driver, who is on trial, has said in court that he is innocent.
Uber argues that since it has stopped taking commissions from drivers the ban doesn’t apply to it. The company has also said that it is working with the federal government and authorities in Delhi to achieve safe and reliable transportation in the country.
In February, it introduced a panic button in its app in India and a feature called “Safety Net,” which allows passengers’ friends to monitor their trips.