Travelling in the city by auto may undergo a total transformation soon. Autorickshaws, complete with a tablet, global positioning system and a hand-held billing machine for debit and credit cards will soon start operating in the city.

The initiative from Makkal Auto, launched on Tuesday, employs the methods of call taxi operators with calls from commuters reaching Makkal Auto’s control room in Teynampet.

The auto closest to the caller’s location is identified and the driver is alerted. “We follow the fare structure fixed by the State government and there are no additional or hidden charges. Commuters can watch television programmes on the android tablet that has a 3G SIM card with internet,” says A. Mansoor Ali Khan, Chairman of Makkal Auto.

The tablet PC and the electronic meter are fitted firmly inside water-proof boxes on the railing separating the driver’s seat from the passenger cabin. A small printer to issue receipt of the fare is also placed alongside. Commuters also have the option of making payments for fare above Rs. 50 with credit and debit cards through a hand-held billing machine.

The tablet PC, printer and billing machine are charged from the auto’s battery. Many of the vehicles are powered by liquefied petroleum gas, Mr. Khan added. The autos are closely monitored at the control room through the GPS. The android tablet PC also has provisions for displaying messages in the event of an emergency like blood required or a possible traffic snarl ahead.

“By associating with this project, we can be assured of ‘savaaris’ (trips) and guaranteed earnings every day,” said Shanthi Ravichandran, among the 25 women drivers who will be ferrying women and children only. The women pay a daily rent of Rs. 250, including Rs. 100 for GPS and maintenance. However, the terms between the drivers and Makkal Auto varies. “We want auto drivers to hold their head high and commuters to have a pleasant experience while travelling in autos. We want to take autorickshaw travel to a higher level. Our source of income would be primarily through advertisements and not from what the drivers earn,” Mr. Khan said.