Thursday, December 3, 2009

India Deserves better Auto Rcikshaws

Auto rickshaws are the most popular form of public transport in India after buses. They have not changed much in design over decades. A significant number use two-stroke engines, giving low mileage and causing pollution. Most do not have a reverse gear and hence execute crazy maneuvers on the streets endangering people around. They are surely not deigned for safety. They are very noisy, causing noise pollution. On top of all this, they are not inexpensive. Ask the driver of any new auto you get into, and he will tell you what he paid for it.

A country that has sent a rocket to the moon can certainly design a better auto to take millions to work. Please permit me to offer a suggestion:

a) The Government of India should announce a scheme to attract the best talents in India to design a better auto, and promote public-private partnership in R & D.
b) This can be in the form of a design competition to be completed within 18 months, thereby not restricting the competition to established firms.
c) The prizes would in the form of orders for autos to be used within Government. Some Govt vehicles are used for delivering and collecting files, going to make small payments, etc. Autos can replace these. This will also reduce the practice of officers’ children getting dropped at school by Government vehicles, etc. An order for 5,000 autos for the best design chosen, followed by prizes of Rs 2 crores and Rs 1 crore for the II and III place would make it worthwhile for a number of companies to participate.
d) Announced selection criteria should include specified marks under: efficiency, cost, reduced pollution and safety. There should also be marks for radical new designs such as electric autos and hybrid autos. A panel of judges with impeccable reputation should make the selection.
e) The process should be completed by Jan 26, ’11, and the selected manufacturer should be invited to send two-dozen of the newly made autos to participate in the Republic Day parade.

There are two major reasons for India to push this forward:

a) This will be a contribution to slowing down global warming.
b) India has the world’s largest market for autos. We ought to capture
the worldwide market.

Srinivasan Ramani
Dec 3, ‘09

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