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An auto rickshaw or three-wheeler (tuk-tuk, trishaw, auto, rick, autorick, or rickshaw in popular parlance) is a motor vehicle and a mode of transport for private use and as a vehicle for hire. It is a motorized version of the traditional rickshaw or velotaxi, a small three-wheeled cart operated by a single individual, and is related to the cabin cycle. Auto rickshaws can be found in many Asian countries such as Bangladeshmarker, Cambodiamarker, Indiamarker, Laosmarker, Pakistanmarker, Sri Lankamarker and Thailandmarker as well as some African countries such as Ethiopiamarker and in some parts of Egyptmarker.


An auto rickshaw is generally characterized by a sheet-metal body or open frame resting on three wheels, a canvas roof with drop-down sides, a small cabin in the front of the vehicle for the driver (sometimes called an auto-wallah), and seating space for up to three passengers in the rear. They are generally fitted with an air-cooled scooter version of a two-stroke engine, with handlebar controls instead of a steering wheel. Many auto rickshaws follow the original design of the Piaggio Ape C, from 1956, which was originally based on the Vespa. Auto rickshaws are light duty vehicles.


Hiring an auto rickshaw sometimes involves negotiating a fee with the driver. In the major cities of India, such as Chennaimarker, Ahmedabadmarker, Thiruvananthapurammarker, Bangaloremarker and Delhimarker, drivers are required to install fare meter in their auto rickshaws. These meters are calibrated according to the city guidelines. In addition, traffic-regulating authorities have implemented a schedule of predetermined fares. For example, in Chennai in 2006, the predetermined fare within the central city was approximately Rs. 50.

Regional variations

South Asia


Many major nationalized banks in India offer loans to self employed individuals who want to buy an auto rickshaw. Auto rickshaw manufacturers in India include Bajaj Auto and Force Motors (previously Bajaj Tempo). TVS Motors, has announced it will enter the auto rickshaw market in early 2006. Auto rickshaws are found in cities, villages and in the countryside.


Known locally as Rickshah or autos, and used mainly by the lower-middle-class, auto rickshaws are a popular mode of transport for short routes within cities in Pakistanmarker. One of the major brands of auto rickshaws is Vespa (an Italian Company). Environment Canada is implementing pilot projects in Lahoremarker, Karachimarker and Quettamarker with engine technology developed in Mississaugamarker, Ontariomarker, Canadamarker that uses compressed natural gas (CNG) instead of petrol in the two-stroke engines, in an effort to combat environmental pollution.

In many cities in Pakistan, there are also motor cycle rickshaws, usually called chand gari (moon car) or qingqi (after the Chinese company who first introduced this rickshaw to the market).

In addition to ferrying people around, an innovative use of auto rickshaws in public life was the demonstration in Peshawarmarker in 2001 against the American invasion of Afghanistan.

Sri Lanka

Auto rickshaws commonly known as 'three-wheelers' can be found on all roads in Sri Lankamarker from the curvy roads through the hill country to the congested roads of Colombomarker transporting locals, foreigners, or freight about. Sri Lankan tuk-tuks are of the style of the light Phnom Penh type. Most tuk-tuks in Sri Lanka are a slightly modified Indian Bajaj model, imported from India though there are few manufactured locally and increasingly imports from other countries in the region and other brands of three wheelers such as Piaggio. In 2007 January the Sri Lankan government imposed an ban on all 2 stroke three wheelers and therefore the ones imported to the island now are only with a four stroke engine. Most three wheelers are available as hiring vehicles with few being used to haul goods and as private vehicles. Bajaj enjoys a virtual monopoly in the island with its agent being David Pieries Motor Co Ltd[63364]. A few three wheelers in Sri Lanka have distance meters, but the vast majority of charges are negotiated between the passenger and driver.


Auto rickshaws are very popular & are common transport in Bangladeshmarker. In Dhakamarker, they are called "CNGs" lovingly by the residents. These "CNGs" are painted green to signify that the vehicles are eco-friendly. In Khulnamarker, they are called "Baby Taxi" or "Baby". Auto rickshaws are visible in other Bangladeshi cities including Chittagongmarker, Rajshahimarker. Auto rickshaws are available in most of the towns and rural areas. In rural areas, they are known as "Tempo", "Nosimon" or "VotVoti".

Southeast Asia

Referred to as bajaj in Indonesiamarker, are common throughout the country's capital Jakartamarker. Bajaj is India's main Auto-Rickshaw manufacturer.

The auto rickshaw, called tuk-tuk in Thailandmarker, is a widely used form of urban transport in Bangkokmarker and other Thai cities, as well as other major Southeast Asian and South Asian cities. It is particularly popular where traffic congestion is a major problem, such as in Bangkok and Nakhon Ratchasimamarker.

In Cambodiamarker, the term tuk-tuk is used to refer to a motorcycle with a cabin attached to the rear. Cambodian cities have a much lower volume of automobile traffic than Thai cities, and tuk-tuks are still the most common form of urban transport.

At the temple complex of Angkormarker, tuk-tuks provide a convenient form of transport around the complex for tourists. One can hire a tuk-tuk and driver by the day.

Siem Reapmarker tuk-tuks are generally of the style of motorcycle and trailer. Phnom Penhmarker tuk-tuks are by contrast one piece. They are the front end of a motorcycle comprising of steering, tank and engine/gearbox with a covered tray mounted at the back. The power is transferred by chain to an axle mounted to the modified rear fork which drives the two rear wheels. Suspended upon the rear fork is an open cabin with an in-line seat on each side. This arrangement can carry 6 people at ease, with their luggage in the leg space. It is not unusual to see these vehicles greatly overloaded, especially in outer suburbs and around markets.

Laomarker tuk-tuks are generally of the Phnom Penh style. They come as tuk-tuks or jumbo tuk-tuks. Jumbos have a larger 3 or 4 cylinder 4 stroke engine, many are powered by Daihatsu engines. While the smaller tuk-tuks carry similar loads to Cambodian tuk-tuks, and are geared similarly, jumbos' larger engine and cabin size allow for greater loads, up to 12 seated people at a squeeze, and higher top speeds. Jumbos are almost without exception only found in Vientianemarker. A few Thai tuk-tuks, which have fully enclosed cabins, have also made their way to Vientiane.

There are comparatively few Vietnamesemarker tuk-tuks on the road. Most are in the two largest cities, Ho Chi Minh Citymarker or Hanoimarker as well as a few in other major tourist centres. Ho Chi Minh tuk-tuks generally comprise the motorcycle and trailer style of Siem Reap while Hanoi and Hoi Anmarker tuk-tuks are of the style of the light Phnom Penh type.
Auto rickshaws are an especially popular form of public transportation in the Philippines, where they are referred to as tricycles (Filipino: traysikel; Cebuano: traysikol). As opposed to other types of auto rickshaws, tricycles are motorcycles fitted with a two-seater implement at the side to allow transportation. They usually carry 5 passengers, rarely more, although one can opt for a 'special' ride, albeit with an increase in price.

Central and South America

The mototaxi or moto is the Central American and Peruvianmarker incarnation of the auto rickshaw. These are most commonly made from the front end and engine of a motorcycle attached to a two-wheeled passenger area in back. Commercially produced models, such as the Indian Bajaj brand, are also employed. In Guatemala the commercial vehicles are referred to as tuk-tuks.

Tuk-tuks operate, both as taxis and private vehicles, in Guatemala Citymarker, Guatemalamarker, around the island town of Floresmarker, Petenmarker, in the mountain city of Antigua Guatemalamarker, and in many small towns in the mountains. In 2005 the tuk-tuks prevalent in the Lago de Atitlánmarker towns of Panajachelmarker and Santiago Atitlánmarker all appeared to be from India (Bajaj Auto).

Three-wheeled Coco taxis, resembling a coconut, are used in Havana, Cuba.


There are tuk-tuks in several Kenyanmarker towns. Using them is somewhat cheaper than ordinary taxis.However, tuk-tuks cannot operate in mountainous towns, which are common in Kenya. Fierce competition with Boda-bodas (bicycle taxis) and Matatus (minibuses) hinders popularity of Tuk-tuks, especially within the interior of Kenya. While they may not be as commonly found in Kenya, one does come across quite a number of them in the coastal regions, which are less mountainous. For example, in the town of Malindi they offer a less expensive and easy mode of transportation. Tuk-tuks are also common in Ethiopiamarker, and is becoming common in Tanzania, particularly in the outer areas of Dar es Salaammarker, as well as, from 2009, in Maputomarker, Mozambiquemarker. In Tanzania and Ethiopia they are known as Bajajis, called after the Bajaj Auto company which manufactures many of them.

In certain parts of Egyptmarker such as the further reaches of Alexandriamarker auto-rickshaws are used to access long streets where use of a taxi would be uneconomical, not necessarily in poorer areas.

Other countries

United Kingdom

The first Tuk Tuks to enter service in the United Kingdom were supplied and built by MMW Imports under the brand name MMW Tuk Tuks, The very first Private Hire license was issued to an MMW Tuk Tuk for tours of Bathmarker in the '90s. MMW also gained full Hackney license in Weston Super Maremarker. MMW also now export Tuk Tuks from Thailand to New Zealand and Australia.

Tukshop of Southampton started the commercial importing of Bajaj rickshaws in 2003. Tukshop failed to gain an operator license for London after a number of media appearances in 2004.

A Bajaj tuk tuk is currently operated by Bangwallop of Salcombemarker, South Devonmarker. Taking just two passengers at a time, the tuk tuk has an operator's license issued by VOSA and trips can be booked in advance.

Auto rickshaws were introduced to the city of Brighton & Hovemarker on 10 July 2006 by entrepreneur Dominic Ponniah's company Tuctuc Ltd, who had the idea after seeing the vehicles used in India and Sri Lanka. They were CNG-powered, using a four-speed (plus reverse) 175 cc engine. Under the terms of their license, the Bajas ran on a fixed single route, and stopped only at designated stops. They are of the same design as traditional auto rickshaws in other countries.

An investigation was launched into Tuctuc Ltd's operation of the service after complaints were raised that routes, stopping points and timetables were not being adhered, primarily by the city's taxi drivers. In November 2006, the company was fined £16,500 - the maximum penalty possible - by the South East Traffic Commissioner. After amendments were made to the timetable to reduce delays and improve reliability, the Commissioner allowed the company to keep its operating licence. However, the company announced in January 2008 that it was ceasing operations, citing "archaic legislation" as the reason.

A toek toek in Amsterdam; waiting for passengers on a cold evening


Since 2007, tuk-tuks have been active in The Netherlandsmarker, starting with Amsterdammarker. They now operate in Amsterdam, The Haguemarker, Zandvoortmarker, Bergen op Zoom, the popular beach resort Renesse and Rotterdammarker. All of the tuk-tuks in The Netherlands are imported from Thailandmarker. They are fitted with CNG engines and have passed the EURO-4 rules.

Fuel efficiency and pollution

In July 1998, the Supreme Court of Indiamarker ordered the Delhimarker government to implement CNG or LPG (Autogas) fuel for all autos and for the entire bus fleet in and around the city. Delhi's air quality has improved with the switch to CNG, important in a city where people commonly wear masks for protection against smog. Initially, auto rickshaw drivers in Delhi had to wait in long queues for CNG cylinders refilling, but the situation has improved with the rise of stations selling CNG. Certain other local governments are also pushing for four-stroke engine instead of the current two-stroke versions. Typical mileage for an Indian-made auto rickshaw is around 35 kilometres per litre of petrol (about 2.9 L per 100 km, or 82 miles per gallon). Pakistan has passed a similar law prohibiting auto rickshaws in certain areas. CNG Rickshaws have started to appear in huge numbers in many Pakistani cities.

In January 2007 the Sri Lankan government also banned two-stroke trishaws to reduce air pollution. In the Philippines there are projects to convert carburated two-stroke engines to direct-injected via Envirofit technology. Research has shown LPG or CNG gas direct-injection to be retrofit-able to existing engines in similar fashion to the Envirofit system. Direct injection is standard equipment on new machines in India.

Traffic issues

Auto rickshaws have a top-speed of around 50 km/h (about 31 mph) and a cruising speed of around 35 km/h (22 mph), much slower than the Automobiles they share the road with. Traffic authorities in big cities try to implement mechanisms to reduce the resulting traffic slowing; however, none of these have really proven effective.

The MMW Tuk Tuk has a top speed of around 70mph and with the introduction of the new turbo will have much improved 0-60 start times, to allow for the increased speeds these Tuk Tuks have anti-roll bars and are fitted with disc brakes all round. The owner of MMW Tuk Tuks, Mr Michael Williams has over the years made huge strides forward in Tuk Tuk design.

The triangular form of the auto also makes maneuvering easy, with the front single wheel negotiating the available gap, and the rear two wheels forcing a larger space.


Due to their relatively low top-speed, auto rickshaws have never lent themselves to conventional road or street racing. However, their modest speed, simple construction and impressive fuel economy has endeared them to the international amateur adventuring community, most notably with the Indian Autorickshaw Challenge and more recently the Rickshaw Run.

Portrayal in media

Auto rickshaws are often portrayed in Indian films (Auto Shankar, Basha, Aye Auto, Oram Po) as well as some Hollywood and foreign productions such as the James Bond film Octopussy , the Canada-India film Amal and the Indonesian movie Pembalasan Rambu. Auto rickshaws are also prominent in the fuel-poor London of 2027 A.D. depicted in Children of Men. A memorable tuk-tuk chase features in the Thaimarker film Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior, climaxing with many of them driving off the edge of an unfinished elevated expressway.James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) rides in a tuk-tuk in a Visa Card commercial.

See also


  1. BBC News - Tuctuc Ltd fined for breach of Public Service Vehicle Licence
  2. Envirofit - Products - 2-Stroke Retrofit :: Implementation]
  3. LPG Direct Injection: An Alternative Fuel Solution to the Two-Stroke Emissions Problem
  4. Bajaj rolls out low-emission fuel-efficient autorickshaw
  5. Green Car Congress: Bajaj Begins Production of 2-Stroke Direct-Injection Auto Rickshaw

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