The software changes include the ability to pause rider requests if drivers need coffee or a bathroom break, paying drivers for wait times exceeding two minutes and allowing drivers who are commuting to receive trip requests that occur only along their way home or two work, for example.
The changes will be rolled out in U.S. cities over the next month, Uber says, though it did not specify which cities.
The change most likely to be noticed by riders is being charged after a two-minute wait. Riders previously had five minutes to to make it to their car. Uber says in cities where the change is being tested, “we’ve seen that riders are more likely to be prompt.”
Drivers have long been pushed for better treatment from the company, which has repeatedly pushed back against attempts to establish them as employees rather than independent contractors. In May, Uber gave its blessing to a New York City drivers organization that formed to represent an estimated 35,000 drivers in the city.
The so-dubbed Independent Drivers Guild was established to serve as a forum for discussions of workplace issues, offer benefits like discounted legal services and provide an avenue to appeal deactivation and air grievances for drivers, according to a joint statement from Uber and the International Association of Machinists, of which the Guild is an affiliate.
The changes introduced by Uber also include discounts for drivers completing a certain number of trips. For example, some drivers will get 15 percent off an uberX ride for every 10 trips they complete in a week, or 50 percent off an UberBLACK ride for every 20 trips, according to the company. Those changes are part of a pilot launched in a few cities.
“We’re running these discounts in different U.S. cities over the next several weeks,” Uber said. “If they improve the overall experience, we’ll make this pilot permanent. So go ahead — be a backseat driver.”
Among the other changes is in-app phone support, the ability to view earnings and be paid instantly from the app through an Uber debit card, and a fuel-finder function that allows drivers to find the cheapest gas nearby.
In April, Uber agreed to pay its drivers $84 million in the settlement of two major class action lawsuits in which drivers challenged their status as independent contractors, saying it represented an unfair denial of benefits typically given to employees.
The agreement, covering about 385,000 drivers in California and Massachusetts, ensured that drivers remained independent contractors rather than employees.
(Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos is an investor in Uber.)