Uber will begin rolling out support for tips today

SAN FRANCISCO Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] will, for the first time, allow drivers to collect tips through the Uber smartphone app, the company said on Tuesday, part of a broader effort to improve its often-contentious relationship with its drivers. Uber rival Lyft recently added support for tipping drivers in its app, though, which makes tipping a driver pretty easy since you don't have to fumble around with cash.

Tipping on Uber is now live in Seattle, Houston and Minneapolis - and it's expected to be available in every US city by the end of July.

Crucially, the company said it will not take any cut of any tips paid - however if drivers are now paying off a auto that has been leased through Uber affiliates, the tips may automatically be used to pay off those charges. Drivers will also be happy to find out that Uber is shortening the cancellation window from five minutes to two. Other earnings enhancements include driver injury protection insurance, a teen fare that pays drivers more for teen account trips and eliminating unpaid wait times, among others.

Besides the built-in tipping option announced Tuesday, Uber is giving drivers an opportunity to make more money in other ways too. The other features will roll out in August.

While building the world's biggest ride-hailing service over the past eight years, Uber developed a reputation for cutthroat tactics that have occasionally outraged government regulators, drivers, riders and even its employees.

Uber has suffered in recent weeks, with company CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick taking an indefinite leave of absence last week.

The changes come as Uber works to fix the damage to its reputation following an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment, bullying and other employee concerns.

The company continued to maintain that policy even in light of a class-action settlement with drivers a year ago that required Uber to amend its driver policy to allow Uber drivers to accept cash tips. "We know there's a long road ahead, but we won't stop until we get there", Schildkrout and Holt said.

By adding in-app tips, Uber can't erase months of bad publicity, but it can win some favor with drivers, who have long criticized Uber for treating them poorly. Uber will also offer United States drivers the option to enrol in injury-protection insurance. It's also allowing more drivers to designate the routes that they want to travel to keep them closer to a destination. The new feature is part of Uber's "180 Days Of Change". One of the first steps of this effort is to add tipping to the Uber app.

  • Anthony Vega