In a move to compete with call taxis, the Madras Metro Auto Drivers’ Association will launch an SMS facility soon.

Affiliated to the All-India Trade Union Congress, the association has around 10,000 autorickshaws in the city and suburbs.

Using ‘SMS an auto’, commuters will be able to hire an auto by sending a text message to a designated number. The message will be forwarded by control room staff to drivers in the passenger’s locality. The driver who wishes to attend to the passenger will send a message back to the control room and go to the customer.

“The head office will be in Valsaravakkam. We are working on the number to which the SMS can be sent and also the technological aspects,” said J. Seshasayanam, secretary of the union.

The facility will either be available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or it may be turned into a 24-hour facility. “We will hold a meeting with drivers to decide on the timings,” he said.

The autorickshaws will only charge by the meter. “If the passenger has any complaint, he or she can SMS us. We will conduct an enquiry and take necessary action,” he said. The main reason behind such an initiative is dealing with competition from call taxis and also to make autorickshaw drivers more professional.

“Passengers will also feel safer as the driver’s credentials will be verified. We will only recruit those who own the vehicle and possess proper documents,” said Mr. Seshasayanam.

Autorickshaw drivers think the move will help them. “Many people prefer call taxis as the vehicles come to the doorstep. Besides, they do not have to haggle over fares. A similar facility will help us earn better,” said K. Paranthaman, an autorickshaw driver from Kodungaiyur.

Passengers, especially senior citizens, welcome such a move. “Now, we will have an auto driver who is willing to ply by the meter and who will also pick us at our doorstep. It will be very convenient,” said 70-year-old Tulasi Vijayan, a resident of Alwarpet.

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