Transport services are increasingly booked through smart phones, yet travellers are often unaware of the impacts that changes in technologies have for operators and how they shape the city. This project engages with citizens of Bengaluru, India, and further afield by producing and disseminating a short documentary film that traces the day-to-day lived experiences of auto rickshaw drivers who form a key component of Indian mobility systems.

The penetration of digital technologies has significant implications for drivers who are low-income citizens and deeply embedded within cash-based economies. New technologies promise to increase the efficiency of user-operator encounters, yet the film observes the difficulties drivers have in transitioning to accept digital fares which have evolved to meet the needs of middle-class millennials. The film aims to develop greater understanding among the public about how changes in digital technologies are affecting the daily lives of drivers, to ease the negotiations that occur in trip booking that are often the site of conflict. The film demonstrates both the positive and negative effects of emerging technical systems for operators and users. It brings into question, however, the possibility of achieving equitable cities through solutions that are comprehensively technological.

Transport users are often unaware of the impacts that changes in technologies have for auto rickshaw drivers and the way in which technologies are shaping the city; for example, that operators need cash payments for various outgoings. Conflicts arise when trips are booked through an online platform, or through digital payments, which have a significant impact to drivers' livelihoods. Drivers may lose customers and may be blocked from using a platform to access customers when conflicts continually arise with customers on a daily basis. This is because drivers are locked into cash economies and seek cash payments from the public.

Aim and Objectives

The project aims to raise public awareness of the financial precarity of transport workers and the importance of cash in their everyday lives. Through increasing awareness, an expected benefit to the public and last mile feeder service providers is the reduction of conflicts that arise over fare payments and bookings. It is also expected that the film will lead to increased trust between users and operators. Transport services are one area where conflicts between wealthy, middle-class and low-income populations arise in India and raising public awareness is an important mechanism to break reoccurring patterns of inequality and distrust.

Research Approach

The film will be made accessible on YouTube and will be promoted most importantly by citizen lobby groups of Bengaluru (for example Citizens for Bengaluru with a social media following of over 10,000 members) and by the auto unions of Bengaluru (and potentially other Indian cities) who often use Facebook to engage with the public. The film will also be promoted by the PI researcher using the GCRF-funded PEAK Urban research website, blog and Twitter account and the TSU (SoGE) website news blog. Other relevant outlets for the film's dissemination will be identified as the project progresses.

Outputs

A short film will be released in May/June 2020.