Uber gets less awful for drivers in the UK by introducing in-app tips and paid waiting

Uber gets less awful for drivers in the UK by introducing in-app tips and paid waiting
Credit: Noel Tock / Flickr

Uber has introduced a slew of new features designed to keep its UK-based drivers happy. The most notable is in-app tipping, allowing riders to show appreciation to their drivers, even when they don’t have any cash on them. Here’s how it works:

When you rate your driver, it’ll prompt you to give a cash tip, and suggest some amounts: £1, £2, and £5. It’ll also let you give a custom amount, if you’re feeling particularly generous. Most importantly 100-percent goes to the driver, as was confirmed to me by an Uber representative.

As a frequent Uber user, I like this a lot. I’m conscious of how poorly drivers are paid, and I always feel a pang of guilt when I don’t have a few coins to throw their way at the end of a trip.

That said, I wonder how drivers will feel about this. I assume few (if any) declare their cash tips, while in-app payments are paid directly to driver’s bank accounts, and therefore are within reach of the taxman.

It also makes sense that, given the prominence of the in-app tipping feature, more people will be inclined to leave tips, and that would therefore make up for any difference.

Waiting times, cancellations, and more

That’s not the only change coming to Uber. Starting from August 22, drivers will be paid for the time they spend idling outside a pickup point. After two minutes of waiting, passengers will be stung 20 pence per minute.

Uber is also changing the amount of time you’ve got to cancel a ride before incurring a cancellation fee. This has been reduced from five minutes to two.

The company also now lets drivers decline trips without having to wait for the request to ‘time out,’ by introducing a ‘No thanks’ button. Previously, if a driver didn’t want to take a trip, they would have to wait 10-20 seconds.

It also lets UberXL and UberEXEC drivers decline UberX trips by default, should they wish to. That seems reasonable. Larger vehicles — like those offered on UberXL — cost more to run than the ubiquitous Prius, used to power the UberX service.

Similarly, UberEXEC cars are high-end, and the service usually comes with amenities like bottled water, phone chargers, and gum. That costs money, and it’s not viable for drivers to offer it at UberX prices.

And given that the importance ratings have in the Uber platform, when a driver gets a low score due to something outside of their control — like an issue with the app — they are now able to request that the rating be removed from their overall score.

Finally, drivers can tell Uber if they’ve got to be in a certain area at a certain time — perhaps to attend an appointment, or to head home — and the app will automatically match them with passengers heading that way.

This is pretty significant. Speak to any Uber driver — or read the Uber Driver subreddit — and you’ll see that most of these things are pretty high on their wish lists.

Drivers make Uber. Right now, they aren’t happy, as seen by the huge rates of driver attrition. According to a report from The Information, as many as 96-percent of drivers leave the platform after a year.

If Uber really wants to stem the flow though, perhaps it could start by increasing the amount they earn per-mile. It might also want to reconsider the practice of taking 25-percent of drivers’ earnings.

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