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Changes On Horizon For Uber Drivers, Passengers

by | Jul 14, 2017 5:30am
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Posted to: Transportation, DMV

By the end of July, Uber, the increasingly ubiquitous ride-sharing company, will be making some changes intended to improve drivers’ experiences. First on its agenda: making it easier and faster for drivers to receive tips.

The San Francisco-based company, for which drivers use their own cars when shuttling passengers or making food deliveries, announced its “180 Days of Change” campaign, spurred in large part by driver feedback.

Uber will make various changes to the way it does business over the next six months, beginning with the way drivers receive tips. By the end of July, Uber drivers nationwide will be able to get tips directly through the Uber app, with no service fees applied, and will be able to cash out their tips and earnings at any time.

In-app tipping launched in June in Seattle, Minneapolis and Houston and will be available in all markets Uber serves by the end of July, company officials said.

Until now, any customers who wanted to tip a driver have had to do so with cash. Otherwise, using Uber typically is a cash-less experience: customers set up an account with Uber, and a credit card linked to that account is charged fares when rides are completed.

Uber drivers and delivery partners nationwide were notified of the changes in an email from Uber Head of U.S. Operations Rachel Holt and Head of Driver Experience Aaron Schildkrout.

“You’ve told us what you want, and now it’s time we step up and give you the driving experience you deserve,” the email says. “For the next 180 days (and beyond) we’ll be making meaningful changes and improvements to your driving experience. Some changes will be big, some will be small - all will be the changes you’ve asked for.”

New changes will be announced each month. In addition to tipping, other changes are on tap for the first month of the effort.

Starting soon, drivers will receive a cancellation fee if their rider cancels after more than two minutes, down from five minutes previously; drivers will earn a per-minute rate if they wait for a rider, starting two minutes after arrival; drivers will have access to driver injury protection insurance; and $2 will be added to the base fare for all teen account trips, and drivers will earn more for those rides.

Several changes also are being made to Uber’s Quest program, which lets drivers receive additional earnings on top of their regular fares. Now every trip drivers take will count toward reaching their Quest total, and drivers can immediately cash out their Quest earnings.

The moves got mixed reviews from fans on Uber’s social media accounts.

Some, including several who identified themselves as drivers on the company’s Facebook page, posted that they are grateful for the changes. Others, including many customers, criticized the shortened cancellation window and wait-time fees, in particular, as ways to tack on additional costs for passengers. And many said on Facebook that the real problem facing drivers is an oversaturation in many markets, resulting in too many drivers and not enough demand.

In most places, Uber riders are quoted the fare that they will pay before requesting the ride. The company uses a practice called “dynamic pricing,” in which fares are higher during times of peak demand for rides. That means a rider could be charged different amounts for the same trip, depending on the timing.

Uber was founded in 2009 and has become increasingly popular in recent years, giving passengers an alternative to traditional taxi services. Its biggest competitor, San Francisco-based Lyft, launched in 2012 and already offers in-app tipping.

Last month Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed into law a bill that regulates for the first time ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

“This new law makes it easier for job-creating rideshare companies across Connecticut continue to grow and thrive,” Brett Broesder, co-founder and vice president of Campaign for Tomorrow’s Jobs, said. “Not only does it better position our state to compete for tomorrow’s jobs, but it also makes ridesharing an even safer transportation option. That’s a win-win.”

The new law for ridesharing companies that includes background checks for drivers won’t go into effect until January.

“This bill will allow ridesharing services like Lyft to expand in Connecticut, which will bring increased transportation options, earning potential, and economic activity to individuals and communities around the state,” Scott Coriell a spokesman for Lyft said. “ We’d especially like to thank Senators Larson, Leone, Boucher and Linares for their hard work to get this bill through the Senate, and we look forward to the Governor signing it into law.”

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