As an employee of a company, trying to innovate the future of public mobility in India, I am interested in learning more about the current infrastructure which exists. To that end, on a regulation auto-rickshaw ride back home from the gym, I was greeted by an unusually amicable auto-wallah (one who drives an auto-rickshaw). No sooner had he determined my destination and the route, did we fall prey to Bangalore’s infamous traffic. As a way to pass the time, we began to chat and I soon learnt that he has been an autowallah for 26 years, long before Bangalore’s “Tech explosion”. Therefore, he remembers a time when journeys could be undertaken at a higher average speed of 7 MPH (the average speed of my last trip to office). While bemoaning the lack of infrastructure to support the population surge, he made an off hand comment about how he wishes that his auto could take off, fly over traffic and then land at his customer’s destination. Instead of laughing it off, as has probably happened in the past, I asked him what sort of levitation and propulsion system he was envisioning (ever since taking part in the Hyperloop competition, I’ve been fascinated by levitation systems). He turned around in surprise and said, ” V22 Osprey ke jaise”. Translation- “Like the V22 Osprey”. To put this into context, the V22 is a tiltrotor aircraft built by Bell and Boeing for the american armed forces which takes off like a helicopter but the transitions to fly like a plane. Not a single one has ever landed on Indian soil. Therefore, this man has taken time out of his busy schedule to read up on aircrafts used by foreign forces. I was absolutely staggered by this but he carried on and effectively said,”I’d have to take into consideration weight as well as distance while calculating the fare, instead of just by distance like I do now”. Now this is extremely poignant as he clearly understood the effects of Newton’s Third Law on his profit margins. No sooner had he started exploring the effects of jet wash on passenger comfort, in this world of his, than we reached my destination where he deposited me on the pavement, absolutely dumbfounded. I checked- the only variable taken into account to calculate my fare of ₹30 (approximately $0.5) was the distance between my gym and my home.
This experience gave me a deeper appreciation of the privilege that I have been afforded to follow my passion of engineering. Additionally, I felt a sense of loss. How much innovation is locked up in people bound by their socioeconomic circumstances and who have therefore never found a way to express it?
Until there is a solution, I will continue to not be weighed before starting a journey in an auto.