Uber has introduced in-app tipping for drivers, a feature sought by the ride-hailing giant’s workforce and long-offered by chief competitor Lyft.
The feature was launched in Minneapolis, Seattle and Houston on Tuesday, and the company said it is adding more cities in the coming weeks. Uber said it expects tipping to be available to all U.S. drivers by the end of July.
“Why now? Because it’s the right thing to do, it’s long overdue, and there’s no time like the present,” Uber said in a statement.
Uber did not immediately specify when the feature will become available in D.C.
Lyft has offered tipping in its app since 2012, and said in March that drivers have netted more than $200 million in tips since then. TechCrunch reported this week that the figure has surpassed $250 million.
Uber touted its in-app tipping announcement as part of an initiative called “180 Days of Change,” where it introduced features aimed at improving the driver experience. The changes include: shorter cancellation windows for riders — down from five to two minutes — compensation during wait times, and a $2 “teen fare” addition for trips on teen accounts. The teen fare will initially be available in Seattle, Phoenix and Columbus, Uber said.
Uber and its workforce have been engaged in an extended labor struggle, as drivers have pushed for better labor protections and higher earnings. The Independent Drivers Guild, an affiliate of the Machinists Union that represents about 50,000 ride-hail drivers in New York City, called Tuesday’s announcement a “win for drivers.”
“Cuts to driver pay across the ride-hail industry have made tipping income more important than ever,” said Jim Conigliaro Jr., the guild founder. “We were proud to lead the way on this fight on behalf of drivers in New York City and across the nation. This is an important first step toward a more fair ride-hail industry.”
Conigliaro said the guild forced the introduction of tipping by putting pressure on regulators. New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission is weighing a proposal that would require in-app tipping, and is expected to hear reactions from riders and drivers at a public hearing July 13.
“We are gratified to see that Uber has apparently fully embraced the rules we recently proposed, which, among other provisions, would mandate that in-app tipping be a non-negotiable requirement,” TLC spokesman Allan J. Fromberg said. “We are also pleased to see Uber say that all tips would be going to the drivers, as our rules would require.”
An Uber spokesman said the company had been working on the feature for an extended period of time, before any legislation.
In a statement, Lyft welcomed the news that Uber would allow driver tipping — before issuing a lighthearted jab at its competitor.
“This is fantastic news for drivers,” a Lyft spokesman said. “Lyft is closing in on 1800 days of in-app tipping.”
Uber says it won’t take a cut of driver tips. Meanwhile, riders will fork over costs for extended wait times, beginning two minutes after the driver arrives, according to an Uber spokesman. The rider will see a separate “Wait Time” fee on their receipt once the trip ends.