Uber’s New Service Is Embracing an Old-School Ride

No fancy cars here—the company is now helping people get around India on traditional auto rickshaws.

(Photo: Bruce Yuanyue Bi/Getty Images)

Apr 9, 2015· 1 MIN READ
TakePart fellow Jessica Dollin studied journalism at the University of Arizona. She has written for the Phoenix New Times and HerCampus.

Despite a recent spate of controversial headlines, Uber is marching ahead with its continued expansion in India—this time embracing a more traditional type of transportation in New Delhi: auto rickshaws. The app-based company announced today that its new service in the capital, known as uberAUTO, will also accept cash for the first time.

“When it comes to getting around Delhi, auto rickshaws are a staple,” Uber wrote on its blog. “We recognize the history and value of autos to the transportation landscape. For us, uberAUTO is another way of using technology to offer more choice, making life simpler and keep Delhi moving.”

Cash is a popular payment method in India, and Uber’s new option will open the door to even more customers. Auto rickshaw ride costs will be based on government-mandated fares; the other 10 cities in India where Uber operates with cars will continue to accept Paytm.

The company has had a rocky history in the country. Its car service in New Delhi was briefly shut down in January after a female passenger was allegedly raped by her driver; the company has been asking U.S. courts to dismiss the case. Uber’s announcement today also comes on the heels of news that U.N. Women backed out of a partnership with the company after repeated criticism of its poor safety record.

Gang rape is common on public transportation in India, a problem that was painfully highlighted in the case of four men who raped a 23-year-old woman on a bus in 2012. Women often take the more private auto rickshaws as a safety measure.

In recent years, female travelers have taken matters into their own hands by calling for gender-sensitivity training for male drivers and starting taxi companies owned and operated by women to reduce the risk of sexual assault.