Logos and more



An auto rickshaw (auto or rickshaw or tempo or tuk-tuk in popular parlance) is a vehicle for hire that is one of the chief modes of transport in India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and is popular in many other countries. It is a motorized version of the traditional rickshaw, a small two- or three-wheeled cart pulled by a person, and the velotaxi.

A small number of auto rickshaws and tuk-tuks can be seen on the streets of China Town in London, although used mainly by tourists and not the local population. The auto rickshaw is also related to its Thai, Lao, Cambodian cousins, the tuk-tuk and the Bajaj in Indonesia, whereas in Brighton, England auto rickshaws are called tuctucs.


Vehicle overview
Suspension and lighting on the front wheel assembly typical of auto rickshaws, first seen on 1940s VespasAn auto rickshaw, or simply just rickshaw, is generally characterized by a tin/iron body resting on three small wheels (one in front, two on the rear), a small cabin for the driver (called an auto-wallah in some areas) in the front and seating for three in the rear. Autos are generally fitted with a scooter version of a two-stroke engine with a handlebar for control (again like scooters) instead of a steering wheel, effectively making them a three-wheeler scooter carrying passengers on the rear seat. However, the former version has still not become extinct. In North India, there is a variation, powered by a Harley-Davidson engine, called the phat-phati because of the sound it makes. However this is almost extinct because of the amount of pollution it causes. Auto rickshaws are extremely light vehicles considering their capacity. When they break down, only two or three drivers are required to fully lift them off the ground and they can be easily pushed by one driver.

Auto rickshaws in India
Auto rickshaws in India.
Auto rickshaws in New Delhi street.A majority of Indian auto rickshaws have no doors or seatbelts. They are generally black or green in colour and have a yellow roof on the top. However the design normally depends on the location (state) of the patrol, and so does the color. For example the sides of an auto in Delhi are green, while in Banglore they are yellow. Their design varies considerably from place to place. In some locations, they have an extra plank on the seat to accommodate a fourth passenger. In reality it is not uncommon to see 6-8 passengers in an auto rickshaw with such an ad hoc setup, although, in theory, autos risk fines for carrying more than three passengers in many places. Auto rickshaws that are used for driving children to school have two extra seats/planks like narrow ledges, one facing the main seating space and one to the side. Such auto rickshaws may transport up to 20 children to school.

In India, it is common to find a mechanic's shop around every corner, thus allowing auto-wallahs easy access to spot-repairs. As a mode of transport, the auto rickshaw is turning out to be a major employer in India. Many graduate youths drive auto rickshaws. All major nationalized banks of India offer loans to buy one under self-employment schemes. Major Auto rickshaw manufacturers in India are Bajaj Auto, Piaggio Greaves, Force Motors (previously Bajaj Tempo), Atul Auto and Kerala Automobiles. A two-wheeler major, TVS Motor Co., has announced it will enter the auto rickshaw market with a technologically updated and a less polluting vehicle, in early 2006. Not restricted to cities, auto rickshaws are also prevalent in large numbers in Indian villages and in the countryside.

In rush traffic many autos can be found waiting to be hired. There is an initial charge at the beginning of a ride then the price normally increases by .5 rupees. It is mandatory that the initial charge be set at a value given by the government. The horns on the rickshaws sound like a duck quacking. For rainy conditions, some autos have plastic coverings.

Fuel efficiency and pollution
CNG-propelled autorickshaws are green and yellow in colour while petrol-run autorickshaws are usually black and yellow (or yellow in southern states) in colour. In Brighton, England each has its own unique colour scheme.In July 1998, the Supreme Court of India ordered the Delhi government to implement CNG or LPG fuel for all autos and for the entire bus fleet in and around the city. Delhi observed a dramatic improvement in the quality of air with the switch to CNG, and this is important for a city where it is not uncommon to see pedestrians and drivers wearing nurse's masks for protection against the prevalent city smog. Now, auto-wallahs in Delhi have to wait in long queues to get their CNG cylinders re-filled. Certain other local governments are also pushing for four-stroke engines instead of the current two-stroke versions. Typical mileage for an Indian-made autorickshaw is around 35 kilometres per litre of petrol.

Traffic issues
Auto rickshaws have a top-speed of around 50 km/h (about 31 mph) and a cruising speed of around 35 km/h (22 mph). Traffic authorities in big cities have implemented different mechanisms to circumvent the resulting traffic slow-down issues. Autos are also banned from plying in the older, more crowded areas of Mumbai, south of Bandra. Some arterial roads of Chennai have a separate lane earmarked for autos and slow two-wheelers, though scant regard is generally paid to lane markings. The triangular form of the auto also makes maneuvering easy, with the front single wheel negotiating the available gap, and the rear two wheels forcing a larger space.

 The view from inside an auto rickshaw. The obligatory fare meter is to the driver's left.
The view from inside an auto rickshaw. A closeup view of the fare meter (electronic version)
The view from inside an auto rickshaw. A closeup view of the fare meter (mechanical meter version). Note the decoration over the meter
Another view from inside an auto rickshaw (drivers view). Note the decorated meter at the left.Autos have to install a taximeter according to laws in various parts of India. Many do not have one, however, and even among those that do, some drivers refuse to turn them on. Hiring an auto often involves bargaining with the driver. But auto-wallahs across India are often accused of fleecing money by installing faulty meters, taking a longer route to the destination and demanding multiple times the fare early in the morning or late at night, or at times when other means of transport are not available. Fares can also double if the destination is an isolated place (charge for returning empty). Auto-wallahs generally defend themselves against such accusations by blaming the government for its negligence of market realities while fixing the distance-based fares. Passengers unfamiliar with the local language are considered particularly vulnerable to overcharging. Cities like Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode in the Kerala state of India have made strict regulations to install Fare-Meters in auto rickshaws. Every new auto entering their streets is required by law to install a digital fare meter to avoid the kind of manipulation with the older mechanical Fare-Meters.

In cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad and Bangalore, traffic-regulating authorities have tried to implement pre-paid schemes where the passengers pay pre-determined auto-fares (depending on the destination) to some central authority and board the autos. However, it is still far more common for a prospective passenger to simply flag down a rickshaw and negotiate a price without an intermediary official (for reasons like non-availability of prepaid autos at all locations and not wanting to queue up for a long time at the counter.)

Chartered and School Autos
Chartered auto services, where the auto-wallah caters to the hirer at a fixed time every day are also common, especially to ferry children on their trips to and from school, in major cities. Such autos often have tailor-made arrangements for extra seating. Children squeezed tight with their school bags in the gaps is a typical characteristic of these autos. Sometimes, such chartered autos violate traffic rules flagrantly by overloading the passenger area with uncomplaining and playful kids - and this has often led to the autos meeting with minor to fatal accidents, which has prompted stricter control and vigilance by parents and traffic authorities.

Slogans and advertisements on rickshaws
Auto-wallahs flaunt their affection for film stars, cricket stars and political leaders by putting posters of them both on auto interiors and exteriors. The latest movie title of the auto-wallah's favorite movie star generally appears on the back of the auto.

Lines like "Jai Bajrang Bali" (reference to Hanuman), "Jai Ma Kali," "Khoda Hafiz", "Jesus loves you", even "Jehovah, the lord is my protector," make regular appearance on rickshaws. Sometimes, a picture with all major religious symbols (Om from Hinduism, Star and Crescent from Islam, and Crucifix from Christianity) are to be seen. Such symbols have played an exceptional role in saving the auto during communal riots. More secular messages like "Small family, happy family", "We two, ours one" (on population control), "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" and "Don't pollute the air" (sic) can also be seen. Similarly auto rickshaws often display patriotic messages such as "Mera Bharat Mahan" (My India is Great) or "Jai Hind". Many auto rickshaws also display the Tiranga (Indian Flag) and the logo of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of India's independence.

Other inscriptions can be just plain colorful. Poetry, personal slogans, catch phrases from pop culture and just humorous comments often appear.

Autos also feature commercials on the back of their canopy. Autos in India's Silicon Valley Bangalore have advertisements of institutes teaching programming languages like C, C++ and Java. Certain autos are equipped with locally-made music systems that play tracks from latest musical hits in volumes above normal levels.

In India Auto-wallahs generally appear in all-khaki clothes. Many of them belong to Trade Unions and dutifully celebrate May Day and the International Labour Day.

In cities like Hyderabad (India), where house numbering is complex, auto-wallahs often turn out to be the only source for spotting out the house for a given address.

In Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Bangalore, auto drivers often refuse to drive prospective customers to various destinations. The hapless commuter then has to shop around, hopping from Auto to Auto searching for the right one.

In Brighton, England, drivers dress casually, but all wear waistcoats designed by Gresham Blake, who also has one of the vehicles in his livery.

Auto-wallahs in film
Auto-wallahs are often negatively portrayed in Indian films, sometimes as villains who kidnap passengers or steal their money. One exception is Tamil super star Rajinikanth's Baasha. Rajnikanth is shown as the best of benefactors in the movie and thus he has been an icon among auto-wallahs. Auto stands in Tamil Nadu have pictures of Rajinikanth showing their devotion for him. A Kannada movie Auto Raja starring Late Shankar Nag is also an icon among auto-wallahs. Auto stands in Karnataka have pictures of Shankar Nag showing their devotion for him. Recently Super star Upendra made a film Auto Shankar as a tribute to the great actor. A Malayalam movie Aye Auto starring Mohan Lal as an auto driver also proved quite popular, and not just with auto-drivers.

The James Bond film Octopussy features a chase scene in which Bond (Roger Moore) and a fellow MI6 agent (Vijay Amritraj) elude villains while they are in an auto. The sequence has one liners with Bond saying "Vijay, we have company" and Amritraj (Noted tennis player of the '70s) the driver replying "No problem sir, this is a company car" while villain Kabir Bedi takes pot shots at them using a shotgun. The chase ends with the rickshaw heading for a brick wall covered by the handbills of a Hindi movie which turns out to be the well hidden entrance to the local MI6 office. The thai film Ong-Bak features a spectacular tuk-tuk chase scene with many tuk-tuk stunts.

Auto rickshaws and crime
In many cities in Southern India, auto rickshaws have had a notorious reputation for being the vehicle of operation in criminal activities ranging from petty thievery and "chain snatching" (snatching necklace jewellery worn by Indian women) to murder. Auto Shankar, a notorious psychopathic killer operated in south Chennai as an auto driver in the 1980s. The image of auto rickshaw drivers in these cities has suffered greatly due to such incidents.

Share autos
A share auto on the roads of Chennai, a variation on the auto-rickshaw€”engineered to carry more passengersAuto rickshaws have been modified in India to carry more passengers and are called Share Autos. Office commuters find this version more economical since the fare is shared by more people. Competition among 'share' auto-wallahs has led to the virtual standardization of fare per passenger based on their destination. Shared autos vary in both name and size from place to place. They are called "Phat-a-phats" in Delhi (which are actually variants of what were once horse-driven vehicles), "8-seater autos" in Hyderabad and "Polaamboo vans" in Chennai. These large share autos shuttle over a distance of 10 to 15 km to gather a substantial number of commuters. Shared autos play an important role in transporting urban India, where state-organized public transport, while not quite crippled, is congested to a point of extreme unreliability, especially during peak hours.


Autorickshaw challenge in India
The Indian AutoRickshaw Challenge (IARC), is a 1000 km (590 miles) rally through the most scenic roads of South India in a Auto rickshaw. The race is open to everyone regardless of experience, nationality, and age. Rickshaws are provided by the organizers. participants have 2 days to prepare their vehicles before the start.

The (IARC) takes participants deep into the heart of Tamil Nadu. Once there they travel through an incredible course of misty jungles, balmy coastlines, flooded streets, monsoon rains and overpowering Indian crowds. By reaching a multitude of challenging waypoints and completing physical and intellectual exercises, The winning team is crowned AutoRickshaw Rally World Champions. The rally is a 7-stage course that goes on a journey of over 1,000 kilometers (roughly 590 miles)

The (IARC) starts from Chennai passing through Mahabalipuram, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Madurai, Tuticorin, Courtallam and finally finishes in Kanniyakumari. Every night, a hotel or campsite will mark the end of the day's stage. In bigger towns participants spend the night in two-three star hotels. Outside of the cities tents are recommended. Participants receive an official list of hotels, though no one is obliged to stay at these facilities. The last night of the Indian AutoRickshaw Challenge will be spent at a luxurious hotel in Kanniyakumari. which is a part of the entry fee.

Auto rickshaws in Pakistan
Known locally as Rickshah, and used mainly by the lower-middle-class, it is a popular mode of transport for short routes within cities. One of the major brands of auto rickshaws in Pakistan is Vespa (an Italian Company). In addition to ferrying people around, an innovative use of auto rickshaws in public life was the demonstration in Peshawar in 2001 against the American invasion of Afghanistan. The problem of environmental pollution caused by auto rickshaws in major Pakistani cities is a growing menace. Environment Canada is implementing pilot projects in Lahore, Karachi and Quetta with engine technology developed in Mississauga that uses CNG instead of leaded petrol in the two-stroke engines.

Auto rickshaws in Thailand
Further information: tuk-tuk
Auto rickshaws in Central America and Peru
Two 1/50 scale models of auto rickshaws, which are known as Bajajs in Indonesia.The mototaxi or moto is the Central American and Peruvian incarnation of the auto rickshaw. These are most commonly made from the front end and engine of a motorcycle attached to a two-wheeled passenger area in back. Commercially produced models such as the Indian Bajaj brand are also employed.

Auto rickshaws in Indonesia
Daihatsu Midget bajajs, competing for customers with taxis, these are common throughout Indonesia. Bajaj is a very famous and probably the only brand of Auto-Rikshaws that sell in India. Bajaj (Owned by Rahul Bajaj) is also a very famous brand for Motor Cycles and scooters in India.

Auto rickshaws in England
As of Monday July 10, 2006, auto rickshaws (named tuctucs) were introduced in Brighton & Hove, England by entrepeneur Dominic Ponniah, who had the idea after travels in countries who had successfully integrated the vehicles into their infastructure.

They were introduced to give cleaner and cooler private transport. They are CNG powered, using a four-speed (plus reverse) 175cc engine, so are far more environmentally friendly than petroleum powered vehicles, an important factor for the many Brightonians and tourists who are concerned about the environment.

Currently, the tuctucs run on only one route, which they must adhere to, due to their licence, and stop only at designated stops. The route runs along the seafront from Brighton Marina in the east Brighton to Hove in the west with a diversion along West Street to Brighton railway station and back. They run from 8am to 2am, between every five to fifteen minutes all year.

Within the first month of service, they became very popular and are to be introduced in other towns and cities in the UK, starting with London in May 2007. They are of the same design as traditional Auto rickshaws in other countries such as India, Pakistan and Thailand, being a design evolved over time from the Piaggio Ape, which started life itself as a Vespa scooter.