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Uber finally accepts cash – for autorickshaws in Delhi

Thu 9 Apr 2015

Online cab-hailing behemoth Uber is seeking a new start in its most controversial location, by offering customers the ability to hail autorickshaws in Delhi – and to pay cash for the journey.

The new service, entitled uberAUTO, marks the first time that the San Francisco-based company has allowed any passengers to pay by cash. Additionally the company will not charge a fee to book an autorickshaw. Speaking to Reuters, Uber’s general manager for New Delhi Gagan Bhatia said: “There were a lot of people who were not able to use an Uber because cash payment was not allowed,” asserting that there is ‘huge potential’ in the latest sub-service from the $40bn-valued company,

The autorickshaw is the most unambiguously commercial vehicle in any taxi fleet – a three-wheeled mini-car intended for short urban hops, with a solo position for the driver seated ahead of space for two passengers.

On the face of it, there is no obvious reason why this particular category of vehicle should be exempted from Uber’s digital-only payment policy, and it invites speculation that the company is considering more flexible policies in the light of a slew of controversies, as it seeks to augment its premier position in new and unprepared markets. More cynically, uberAUTO simply opens up another revenue stream which had apparently been blocked arbitrarily; at the end of the day all journeys are still logged and related to Uber user accounts, and to the accounts of the drivers that ferry them to their destination, so accountability is relatively unaffected. No details have currently been given regarding the ways in which cash amounts will be accurately logged.

This is the first non-bad news Uber has had regarding its Delhi operations in a while, plagued as that market has been by the controversy raised when an Uber driver was accused of raping a 27-year-old female executive last December – an incident which was followed with further allegations of Uber rape in Chicago and Detroit over the next eight weeks. That particular stain on Uber Delhi was reopened this week when the company made an application for a court to dismiss the Delhi rape victim’s case against it by disclaiming responsibility for the driver’s actions.

On the 25th March Delhi government officials took action to block the IP addresses for Uber’s taxi-hailing apps in an attempt to enforce a ban on Uber’s operations within Delhi. Presumably the intermediate weeks have seen negotiations restore at least a little favour to the PR-cursed company.

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