The update is geared at attracting regular commuters to driving, not just those who treat Uber as a full-time job. In essence, Uber wants every driver on the road during rush-hour periods to be equipped to pick up fares. It also gives existing drivers the freedom to limit how far fares may take them — a problem that comes up when a driver in D.C., who had been planning on picking up a fare or two before going home for dinner, picks up a customer who wants to go to Baltimore.
The company’s carpooling option (not to be confused with ride-splitting service uberPOOL) first launched in November, in the San Francisco Bay area. Its competitor Lyft launched a similar feature, Lyft Carpool, in March — but it too was limited to the Bay area. Now, D.C. joins San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas and New Jersey as the only U.S. markets to offer carpooling.
To some, it might sound like a paid version of another D.C. commuting staple: slugging. Uber says the feature builds on D.C.’s long tradition of slug lines. Experienced sluggers would likely dispute that characterization, however, noting that no money is exchanged in true slugging.
In a news release on the change, Uber said Driver Destinations is part of its effort, Pooling Together, to alleviate the effects of Metro’s SafeTrack initiative by easing congestion.
Uber pledged in June to make a number of software updates, including a commute option, to improve the driver experience. The pledged changes also include the ability to pause rider requests if drivers need coffee or a bathroom break, and paying drivers for wait times exceeding two minutes.
In April, Uber settled two major class-action lawsuits in which drivers challenged their status as independent contractors, awarding them up to $100 million.
The company, whose driver-partners have long pushed for better compensation and employee protections, introduced the software changes in June after hearing “there are plenty of things we can do to make driving more empowering and worth your while,” according to a company blog post.