Auto-rickshaw Meter

The design of the digital Auto-rickshaw meter makes it desirable for passengers as it is accurate, direct, and tamper proof but is also acceptable for the drivers as it allows them to earn extra money by means of location based advertising. ARM_Render_00 Project Details Team: Manas Karambelkar Duration: 6 weeks Course: Technically Complex Product Design at Symbiosis Institute of Design (SID) Guides: Atul Kedia Description The project was started by selecting a broader topic of corruption. This was a vast and complex area to tackle by design and there were a lot of opportunities. Corruption is not necessarily at a higher level but also in a common man's day-to-day life. One of such situations is corruption in auto-rickshaw drivers in various ways such as taking a longer route, tampering of the fare meter, declining passengers etc. Many of these issues could be tackled by implementing a digital fare meter which is being made mandatory in various cities in India. But this policy was strongly opposed by auto-rickshaw drivers and their unions. The project started with looking at what types of fare meters are used today, how are they tampered, what are the laws and procedures undertaken by the RTO (Regional Transport Office) and why was this strong opposition for digital fare meters which are clearly a better option and demanded by commuters.
A typical mechanical auto-rickshaw fare meter

A typical mechanical auto-rickshaw fare meter

Inside a mechanical fare meter

Inside a mechanical fare meter

 
Mechanical fare meter back view. The gears on top right corner are driven by a cable coming from the differential gear on rear axle of auto-rickshaw. Tampering is done by filing teeth of these gears.

Mechanical fare meter back view. The gears on top right corner are driven by a cable coming from the differential gear on rear axle of auto-rickshaw. Tampering is done by filing teeth of these gears.

 
A certificate stating that the fare meter is properly calibrated and checked

A certificate stating that the fare meter is properly calibrated and checked

After this study it was understood that auto-rickshaw drivers are not keen on having digital fare meters because of various reasons. Some of the officially stated reasons were: 1. Digital fare meters are 2-3 times more expensive than the mechanical meter. (The price of which is to be paid by the driver) 2. Digital fare meters are not perceived to be as sturdy and weather proof as the mechanical meters since they are made in plastic and use electronic components which could be affected by rainwater. 3. There were very few service centers and the after sale service was also expensive as it  requires skilled people such as those with knowledge of electronics and programming. And then there were some reasons which they (Auto-rickshaw drivers) would not discuss openly but came out of prolonged interaction with them. They were: 4. As these digital fare meters do not have any mechanical moving parts, they are more accurate and difficult to tamper compared to mechanical meters where filing off gear teeth could make the meter run faster 5. Mechanical meters would only display the distance traveled and the fare had to be calculated. So the commuter had to know the latest fare rate otherwise the auto-rickshaw driver could demand more than the actual amount. Then the contemporary digital fare meters were studied to see how they work and how are they made, how easy are they to use by the auto-rickshaw drivers
Contemporary designs of the digital fare meters

Contemporary designs of the digital fare meters

There were a few things which were different than the mechanical meter which would take some effort from the auto-rickshaw drivers to adopt to them. 1. The digital fare meters are made out of plastic and since they do not have a assembly of mechanical parts they are rather small in size. This makes them to be perceived as not sturdy enough to withstand vibrations and weather. 2. The main interaction which the auto-driver has with the mechanical meter is of turning the flag which indicates whether the auto-rickshaw is hired or available for hire. This interaction of turning the flag was replace with having different buttons for different functions. These, in some cases were small and difficult locate. The labeling would wear out and make it even more difficult 3. Even though it was highly accurate and tamper proof , there still were some factors which could affect the reading. For example, the air pressure in the tires could change the reading as the diameter of wheel changes requiring more (or less) number of rotations for the same distance. After considering all these factors exploration in terms of form, placement of the meter in the auto-rickshaw and functionality was done through sketching and physical mock-ups. For this some amount of user and ergonomic study was done. As well as studies in semantics was done for form exploration to understand what aspect of the form makes the fare meter a fare meter.
The unergonomic posture the auto-rickshaw driver takes while viewing the fare at the end of the trip

The unergonomic posture the auto-rickshaw driver takes while viewing the fare at the end of the trip

 
Study about the semantics of the auto-rickshaw meter to identify what people identify a fare meter with

Study about the semantics of the auto-rickshaw meter to identify what people identify a fare meter with

 
One of the sketches exploring different mounting place and form

One of the sketches exploring different mounting place and form

 
A mock-up of one of the concept made for testing in polystyrene foam

A mock-up of one of the concept made for testing in polystyrene foam

The final concept is a digital fare meter which calculates the distance using a GPS tracker making it more accurate and tamper proof. To facilitate communication for GPS satellite it will use a standard SIM card. Additionally the meter has a display which could show the map and current location (or just the name of the current location depending on cost constraints). The meter also has a thermal printer for printing receipts which are useful for customers who want to track their commute expenses for official reasons. In terms of form the meter was designed to represent two attributes- rugged and accurate. Grooves on the sides make it look rugged and sturdy. Sharp edges suggest it being accurate. The meter has triangular section which adds to volume and has an seven segment display showing fare on the back for easy viewing by the auto-rickshaw driver. All this technology and added features will make the meter expensive and would also have a running cost due to internet connection using GPRS. This cost could be taken up by the location based advertisement. The additional earning through advertisement would be that extra money auto-rickshaw drivers try to earn by cheating. The mobile connectivity also facilitates over the air update of the software as the fare rates are changed. ARM_Render_04   ARM_Render_05   ARM_Render_03   ARM_Render_01   ARM_Render_02  
MDF model of the designed digital fare meter

MDF model of the designed digital fare meter

 
Numeric display with cabinet for receipt printer roll on the MDF model

Numeric display with cabinet for receipt printer roll on the MDF model

 
For Hire flag on the MDF model replacing the text with symbol.

For Hire flag on the MDF model replacing the text with symbol.

   


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