The number one feature Uber drivers request is the ability to receive tips via the app — and the ride-hailing company is finally ready to fork it over.
Starting today in Seattle, Minneapolis, and Houston, riders will have the option to tip drivers using the Uber app. Uber says it will expand tipping to additional cities over the next few weeks, and all U.S. drivers will be able to use the feature by the end of July 2017.
Adding tipping is a major shift for Uber but it isn’t entirely surprising given how much change the public is demanding of the company.
Tipping is part of a new initiative called the 180-day commitment, during which Uber says it will be “making meaningful changes and improvements” to the driving experience. For the next six months, Uber plans to implement a series of changes aimed to improve the service for drivers.
As part of that six-month commitment, Uber is shortening the window during which drivers can collect a cancellation fee from five minutes to two minutes. If a driver waits for a rider for more than two minutes, he or she will also be able to collect a per-minute wait time rate.
In addition to tipping and wait fees, Uber appears to be responding to driver concerns over its new teen rider program. For those trips, $2 will be added to the base fare of the ride, allowing drivers to collect more for transporting teens which can be a liability issue. Additional changes to the driver-side of the service are listed here.
The changes come amid a series of scandals that lead Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to take a leave of absence from the company. Kalanick also lost his mother recently and told employees he needed some time to “focus on building out a world-class leadership team.”
The leave was recommended by an investigation from former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder’s law firm was hired to investigate allegations of harassment and sexual discrimination and a crisis of circumstances sparked by a Feb. 19 blog post by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler.
During an all-hands meeting to discuss Kalanick’s leave, Uber board member David Bonderman fueled the flames of scandal by making a sexist comment about another woman joining the board. Bonderman resigned after audio of the meeting was leaked.
Tipping (or lack thereof) was one of most distinguishing features between Uber and its chief rival Lyft, which has accepted tips from the beginning. Yesterday, Lyft announced that its drivers have earned over a quarter billion dollars in tips.
The shift shows how challenging operating a two-way marketplace can be. In the early days of Uber, the promise of tip-free rides helped draw some customers away from traditional taxis where tipping was expected. But drivers are just as essential to Uber as riders and skipping the tips can feel like a raw deal, particularly when Uber’s competitors allow them.
“Why now?” Uber said in an email notifying drivers about the changes. “Because it’s the right thing to do, it’s long overdue, and there’s no time like the present. This is just the beginning. We know there’s a long road ahead, but we won’t stop until we get there.”