Besides the built-in tipping announced Tuesday, Uber is giving drivers an opportunity to make more money in other ways too.
Riders will be charged by the minute if they keep an Uber car waiting for more than two minutes. Uber also is reducing the time riders have to cancel a ride to avoid being slapped with a $5 fee from five minutes to two minutes after summoning a driver.
Uber won't take any of the tip money. The San Francisco company will continue to collect part of ride-cancellation fees, as well as the waiting-time charges.
The tipping option, long available in the app of rival Lyft, will start Tuesday in Seattle, Houston and Minneapolis.
Uber wants it to be in all U.S. cities by the end of July. The other features will roll out in August.
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The attempt to smooth over its sometimes testy relationship with drivers is part of a broader effort to reverse damage done to Uber's reputation by revelations of sexual harassment in its offices, allegations of trade secrets theft and an investigation into efforts to mislead government regulators.
"These drivers are our most important partners, but we haven't done a very good job honoring that partnership," said Rachel Holt, regional general manager in the U.S. and Canada. She is on the leadership team running Uber while CEO Travis Kalanick is on leave.
The expanded earnings opportunities are the first step in what Uber is billing as "180 days of change" for its U.S. drivers. Holt wouldn't reveal the rest of the campaign.
Drivers are happy about the tips but would like more from Uber in New York City, where costs are high and they have trouble making a living, said Luiny Tavares, a driver in Manhattan. He said drivers want Uber to pay a minimum of $250 per eight-hour shift.
Uber wouldn't budge in previous talks about tipping but relented when it appeared that poor driver relations were hurting its bottom line, said Tavares, a steward for the Independent Drivers Guild, which had pressed for tipping.
"It's about time that they saw the error of their ways," Tavares said.
A proposed law in New York City could have forced Uber to enable in-app tipping in its largest U.S. market by the end of this summer, if it had been approved.
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