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Using GPS to catch tampered rickshaw meters (Updated)

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Private transport

I always carry my trusty GPS whenever I head to places I haven't been to. It helps me to quickly locate a place and I don't have to ask for directions. I dont have a vehicle and so I invariably take rickshaws for trips within the city. The infuriating thing about rickshaws is that their meters are frequently tampered with. Yes, even the digital ones.

Yesterday I was heading out to Vasant Nagar in an autorickshaw and carried my GPS with me. The GPS has an odometer which measures distance covered to a very high accuracy. The rickshaw had a "PERFECT" digital meter (model A-786). I quickly realized that it had been tampered since it indicated 2 kms when the actual distance covered was only 1.5 km. I watched as the gap between the GPS reading and the rickshaw meter reading gradually widened. Towards the end of the trip, the rickshaw meter was off by more than 2 kms and still growing.  

I started taking pictures as documentary proof. The fellow driving, a young chap probably in this twenties, got suspicious and asked me what I was doing. When I told him that I have a much better meter and explained the error in the rickshaw meter reading he promptly it switched off and agreed to use the GPS reading!

    He murmured something about the meter getting hot and hence the error, but that  is rubbish since it was digital meter. There is a large scale tampering of auto rickshaw meters in Bengaluru and the traffic police need to take action. The fares are already high as it is, why should we pay even more?   

GPS reveals tampered rickshaw meter

Tampered digital meters show fares that are 30-33% higher than normal

What commuters can do

I just came across this ingenius mobile app called 'Suruk' developed by IIIT-B students Sandeep and Anenth. It has a feature called digital meter that can be used to calculate distance and fare on GPS enabled mobile phones. Check it out.

Complaints must be directed to:

Sri Ramachandra
Controller of Legal Metrology (Weights & Measures)
Government of Karnataka,
No.1, Ali Askar Road, 
P.B. No. 175, Bangalore, Karnataka – 560 052
Ph: 080-22253500 26682715 (Res) 
Fax 080-22259024 TELEGRAM: MY WEIGHT 








97 users have liked.

How much does this gps thing cost?

The whole reason for my buying a bike was that I was tired of haggling with the auto drivers on a daily basis for 10-15-20 bucks.

This is an awesome way to change all that. I imagine it will be much cheaper to buy this than a bike :D

tejvan's picture

Pic uploaded

110 users have liked.

Okay I finally figured out how to upload the picture. The point of the article isn't the GPS, rather I wanted to bring attention to the fact that most of these meters are tampered with. Not everyone can buy a GPS but I was just shocked at how many rickshaw meters are tampered with. Police need to look into this big time. 

murali772's picture


107 users have liked.

I expect the PRAJA team will include this point in the agenda for discussions with the Addl Commissioner, Traffic.

Muralidhar Rao
aditto's picture

This article is not 100% correct about autorickshaw meters

103 users have liked.

First thing is about getting your fact right:

The autorickshaw meter or taxi meters in india do not show the distance traveled. It also accounts for time spent waiting at traffic signals or traffic jams.

So, if you travel X kms, and spend T minutes waiting in standstill traffic, your meter would show

Y = X + kT (where k is a calibrated constant).

If your rickshaw does not stop at all from point A to point B, no matter how much time it takes or what speed it travels, as long as it does not stop, T=0, hence Y=X

If you wish to compare the meter reading with GPS, ensure that the autorickshaw does not pause for even a moment on the way!

Talking about tampering the meter, that is achieved by changing the torsion of the spring that accounts for waiting time, basically "k" in the equation above. So if you travel in two different auto's, the "k" values might differ if tampered with. Old auto meters need recalibration often.

Most people are not aware about the science of a flag meter in a rickshaw or taxi and hence think the meter is tampered if they see even a 30% difference in the value shown versus actual distance. In heavy traffic conditions like Mumbai and Bangalore, your meter will always show a higher reading because of the huge amount of time spent waiting in traffic!

I hope you understand, and realise that GPS cannot accurately claim that a rickshaw's meter has been tampered.

tejvan's picture

Your comment is not 100% correct

102 users have liked.

Hi Aditto,

Thanks for your comment. First off all let me say that I have never seen the meter reading accounting for waiting time in Bangalore at least. If what you say is true, then shoudn't the meter be ticking off even during standstill? It may be true in Mumbai, but I have not seen this occurring in Bangalore during my 5 years here and let me assure you, we have huge traffic jams here.

Even if you consider waiting time, it is supposed to be FREE for the first five minutes and then Re 1 for every 15 minutes. Refer ( So waiting charges are negligible.

On that particular day, we did not spend much time held up in traffic and hence waiting time cannot explain the 30% increase in fare.

Finally, these are digital meters so there is no question of fiddling with torsion springs. Probably it is achieved by tampering with the circuitry in the meters.

I think it should be fairly easy to account for waiting time also, once you have the GPS traces. But as I said, this amount would be negligible.
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