A small, three-wheeled vehicle, the auto rickshaw frequently speeds along the streets of Asian cities. Also known as a motorised rickshaw, it moves small loads of cargo and carries passengers from one place to another. Certain advantages of the auto rickshaw helped it become widespread in the developing world, but safety and environmental concerns have dampened its appeal.
Passenger and Operator Advantages
For the operator of an auto rickshaw, it's less expensive to operate than most automobiles and faster than a bicycle or manual rickshaw. The three wheels make these rickshaws more stable than bicycles and motorcycles, with greater room for cargo and passengers. Extra features, such as windshield wipers, headlights and mirrors, provide some advantages in terms of safety and convenience. For passengers, an auto rickshaw costs less than riding in a taxi car but still allows them to request a specific destination, unlike public transportation.
The auto rickshaw's small size takes up less space on roadways and parking areas. It's possible to run auto rickshaws on electricity or to install more efficient engines, which can significantly decrease their pollution and fuel consumption. These types of rickshaws don't require as many resources to manufacture as an automobile, because of their compact size and limited complexity.
For many reasons, some people prefer non-motorised vehicles, public transportation or full-sized automobiles to the auto rickshaw. One disadvantage is that this vehicle costs more to buy and operate than a bicycle or old-fashioned rickshaw. It also doesn't provide riders with any exercise. The auto rickshaw cannot move as quickly as a car, though this makes little difference in congested streets. Auto rickshaws lack important safety features, such as seat belts and doors. Their ability to travel at moderately high speeds creates a significant potential for injury.
Auto rickshaws generate more pollution than most other forms of transportation. In New Delhi, efforts to convert auto rickshaws to run on natural gas did little to reduce pollution because of their inefficient, two-stroke engines, according to Earth Times. It's more beneficial to install four-stroke engines and continue using gasoline. The Global Times indicates that illegal auto rickshaws in China often violate traffic laws and travel without number plates. These vehicles also generate a lot of noise.
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images