SAN FRANCISCO — Uber is adding a tipping option to its ride-hailing service, a feature that has long been a part of rival Lyft and something Uber drivers have been requesting for years.
The new feature debuts in Seattle, Minneapolis and Houston on Tuesday, with more cities to roll out over the next few weeks and every market covered by the end of July, according to an email Uber sent drivers.
"We've heard you," reads the email. "You've told us what you want, and now it's time we step up and give you the driving experience you deserve, because simply put, Uber wouldn't exist without you."
Much as with Lyft's long-time tipping option, Uber passengers can use the new feature to reward a particularly memorable ride after the fact. It is not mandatory for riders.
Uber is committing to what it calls "180 days of change (and beyond)," which will also include driver-focused updates such as a shorter cancellation window (the driver gets a fee if you cancel your ride after more than 2 minutes, down from 5 minutes); drivers will earn a small fee for waiting for a passenger starting at the 2-minute mark; and a new $2 charge is being added to Teen Account trips.
The news comes as Uber begins implementing 47 recommendations from a 3 and a half month internal investigation led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
But those findings were all focused on addressing Uber's cultural issues, which range from accusations of fostering a sexist and cut-throat work environment to promoting a culture where only workaholics following CEO Travis Kalanick's mandate were rewarded.
Uber's driver relationship issue have persisted for some time independent of its workplace problems. Uber's former president Jeff Jones, who left the company in the wake of Susan Fowler's explosive allegations about the ride-hailing company, was brought on board specifically to address its relationship with drivers, to little avail.
In a recent report on Uber drivers called "The Faceless Boss," NPR reporter Aarti Shahani surveyed 1,000 drivers and found that the company's drivers had a few overarching complaints.
"For one, they felt this was a weird job because it's the only one most have had were they literally can't reach the person in charge," says Shahani.
The other big issues were not being sure what they would make on each ride, and being tracked while on duty via the Uber app. Shahani says that "many drivers fell like Uber controls them in ways that are odd, and they don't like it."
When presented with NPR's findings, Uber spokespeople acknowledged the problem, "and acknowledged they've seriously overlooked it."
Regardless of Uber's urgent need to change both its internal culture and its tarnished brand image, the new tipping option may have been inevitable. Back in April, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission granted a petition by the city's Independent Drivers Guild to create a rule that would require ride-hailing services to add in-app tipping, a move that could ultimately have had a ripple effect nationwide.
Uber executives had long argued that the no-muss aspect of its non-tipping approach — get in a car, ride to your destination, and get out — was one of the most popular aspects of its service.
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