11 of Uber's 38 Changes for Drivers in 2017

As part of Uber's 180 days of change that came about after Travis Kalanick was ousted from his CEO position and in a direct way to win back contention from their abused drivers. Uber introduced 38 changes to the way it manages rides that are aimed specifically to ease drivers workload and raise their income.

There are around 750,000 drivers in the US, and they are Uber, not the app and not the company, the drivers. Yet, for the past five years, Uber has done everything in its power to alienate it's most precious resource. All this changed when Uber founder Travis Kalanick stepped down from the CEO position in lieu of sexual harassment, and other unethical activities attribute to his term in power. In one instance, drivers ganged together and sued Uber, which paid out a $20 million settlement with the FTC after allegedly misleading their drivers.

Since June 2017, Uber introduced 180 days of change that were aimed at improving the Uber experience for both drivers and riders. Let's take a look at some of the changes that improved drivers experience. The changes were introduced in Chapters, and we picked out 11 features.

Chapter 1: Tipping

  1. For some reason, Uber did not allow or include tipping via their app. This led drivers to come up with some original approaches to tipping including tip boxes, treasure chests and direct asking for a tip. Uber introduced tipping in their app, it appears on the rating screen, and according to Uber, drivers have received a total of $200 million in tips via the app in the last six months.

    Tips come after the rating process, the feature requires all passengers to input a rating, and around 50% of passengers don't rate rides. This means that around 50% of all trips won't be tipped. I guess the logic behind this is to get the driver to educate the passenger on ratings in order to get them to tip. By increasing the ratings and hopefully reach 90% will vastly improve the accuracy of driver ratings, or it will merely teach drivers to explain to passengers that tipping is easily reached after choosing a 5-star rating.

    Once the customer has passed the rating screen they will arrive at the tipping screen, it will ask for a compliment (not mandatory) and will also offer three tip choices. The tip choices are pre-set by Uber, in other words, while there is a custom tip option, it is limited to the total fare amount. There is no free choice for tipping, which is also an issue since some customers might have just one the state lottery and want to tip an outrageous amount. No matter, the tip rates vary per city and also are ride fare based. There is always a "no tip" amount and two tip amounts.

    One interesting feature for pool driving is that now all pool passengers have a separate tipping app feature, which means that now pool passengers won't gang up to make a cash tip together. Every passenger will be able to tip the driver separately after making a rating. This will add an incentive to the driver's amiability in accepting pool rides. It also means that pool drivers, who recently received an upgrade in their rates as well, can increase pool ride income substantially. It's just a matter of adjusting how they cope with pool rides and make them a preferred ride type.

Uber’s Tipping Explained

Chapter 2: 24 Hour Phone Support

  1. This service is aimed at offering drivers a quick line to Uber's support center. Offering this service all over the US and Canada by the end of 2017. Uber will add French and Spanish to the service and will most probably add more languages for specific locations based on city demographics.

    The reason this service warranted an upgrade was due to driver's continuous complaints about not being able to get a live service for various questions. While the service is fast, sometimes the representative is not knowledgeable in all matters raised by the driver.

    Even though the BPO was situated in the Philippines, drivers could get a human reply to questions. Uber has got an extensive online HELP and FAQ, and there are a number of extremely resourceful bloggers online that provide a lot of information. However, drivers prefer to get an immediate official human response then read up or research answers. Uber's 24-hour support has courted 2 million calls in the last six months, which shows how important it is.

Chapter 3: Destination Filter (DF), Arrival Times and Long Trip Notifications

  1. Uber's DF is an amazing feature since it allows drivers the ability to set a destination and then receive ride requests that will keep the driver on the line of their destination. This is very useful for starting out a schedule and closing a schedule, where the driver can set home as the destination and receive rides on the way back home at the end of the shift. The change introduced was to increase the number of DF's from 2 to 6. All drivers applauded this, but it did not last. Uber closed this feature since it caused problems with rider requests that were outside a drivers DF window. This led to longer waiting times and as a result, forced Uber to reduce the change from 6 back to two.

    The destination filter was always a good feature used by the most driver to control the direction of the rides coming in when driving to a particular waiting place or designated work area. The concept of six directions was very useful for drivers that would take on long distance rides for their ride back as well as drivers that liked to move about rather than wait in one particular area. Starting a shift and ending it with destination filter was always a basic option and used up the two times a driver could use the filter. Perhaps this is what Uber wanted, a small additional help for starting and finishing a shift.

    However, when adding the extra four filter options opened up a whole one world for drivers. Uber notified drivers of the change via the app and stated that it was closing down the filter from 6 to 2 in Canada and the US. What is interesting is Uber's claim that the didn't know how much the drivers enjoyed and relied on the Destination Filter. Which is a bad sign, since it means that Uber is not interested or not capable of following driver trends, we think that's a lot of BS since the use of the Destination Filter is recorded by the app and Uber will have a full set of records how much the Destination Filter was used.

    What Uber did claim is that the Destination Filter ruined passenger pick-up times in certain destinations, since drivers were being pinged on the way to a destination which made certain areas prone to surge effect.

    Most drivers are upset with this change; the Destination Filter offers a lot of flexibility as well as income. One driver explained that without the use of the Destination Filter, driving from one side of San Francisco over the Bay Bridge to the East Bay becomes problematic since drivers rarely get a ping when driving back into SF so without the Destination Filter, it's better to shut off the app and just drive back with a quiet ride.

  2. The Arrival time change is a feature that allows a driver to add an estimated arrival time to their DF, which will create a greater number of rides being sent to the driver as the DF arrival time gets closer. The arrival time is a drivers input, it is not a map generated ETA and is set in place by the driver when setting the DF.

  3. Long Trip Notifications were added to help drivers decide whether they wanted to take trips that would take over 45 minutes. In most cases, trips that were over a long distance rather than in traffic. The concept arose when complaints were sent in from drivers that were sent on long mileage trips, in some instances crossing a State border, which stopped drivers from finding a return passenger, in other instance, and in most cases, would take the driver out of their comfort zone. On the other hand, some drivers preferred long distance trips since the mileage added up to a good income, while the would be able to filter out short distance but high wait times in traffic due to the low income these trips generated. In all, it is a win-win feature.

Chapter 4: Increased Earnings from UberPool

  1. UberPool is considered to be both a good source of income but a terrible ride. Many passengers are picked up from different spots and dropped off at the same point or at different points on the way. The issues of dealing with navigation, traffic and passengers that might be problematic when alone never mind when together as well as bad interactions, and in bad weather, messed up car seats, caused drivers to shy away from this service. Uber introduced a price change that made the UberPool ride more lucrative and thereby acceptable for all the hassle that came with driving multiple passengers.

Chapter 5: Long Pick-ups, Cancellation Fees and Wait Time Fees

  1. Long pickups were always an issue for drivers and still are. Basically, a driver that must drive for over 8-9 minutes to pick up a passenger will be compensated for the time over that limit. Before this change, drivers would drive for over fifteen minutes to reach a ride and not get paid for the drive time. This led many drivers to reconsider accepting rides and lowered the quality of performance for Uber. The new change introduced pays drivers for the difference which improves the ride request acceptance rate.

  2. Uber increased the cancellation fee for riders that canceled a request minutes before the pickup time. This came into being since many drivers would start to drive towards their pickup destination and just as they were reaching it, the passenger would cancel. The new change will charge the rider for part of the drive time to pick them up.

  3. A major issue with all drivers are passengers that are not waiting for their driver. In many instances, the time could be from five to fifteen minutes, where Uber would allow a driver to cancel a ride after a five-minute wait. Most drivers would wait, to get the ride. Uber has added a waiting time fee that will be charged to passengers that delay their arrival over two minutes.

Chapter 6: Express Pool, Scheduled Rides, and Ratings

  1. Express POOL differs from UberPool in one feature, and this is enough to reduce the costs and price accordingly. Express POOL operates like a bus service, there is a specific "Smart stop" located within easy walking distance of all the pick-up passengers. "smart stops" are generated by Ubers algorithm that calculates all the customer pickup locations and generates a calculated "smart stop" that measures an equal walking distance for all the customers. This makes picking up easier and the ride faster, since the driver does not need to negotiate traffic and many stops, the vehicle waits in one place and sets of to drop off riders at a preset "smart stop" location.

    The new Express POOL will be available as a pilot model for certain areas in Boston and San Francisco. This development comes as part of an evolutionary process that Uber is going through in its competition with Lyft and as a desire to improve customer satisfaction. They started out in 2015 with "smart routes" that directed customers to main artery pickup routes, and Lyft stopped its Express POOL hotspot service. During May 2017, Uber tested Express POOL quietly, under the radar, so no one heard about it till now, it was also part of a scheduled pick up service, so you needed to pre-request the service.

    The new pilot is an "on-demand" service that is available in three categories, UberX, UberBlack, and UberSUV. The UberX version makes riding cheaper than a San Francisco bus ride; it's under $2.75 which does it an extremely attractive service for all potential customers and could be one of Uber's marketing drives to fight Lyft, public transport as well as raise Uber awareness. Whether the pricing is profitable for Uber remains to be seen.

  2. Scheduled rides are not really scheduled rides as we expect it. A scheduled ride is when a customer requests a ride set to another time or time and date, and the driver accepts it upon request. Uber does not offer a scheduled ride acceptance, it merely schedules the request into their system and a few minutes before the ride is set to start, it push out the request for any drivers available, just like a normal ride request.

    Uber shows the passenger a where to button, when pressed the button the screen moves to a date and time choice option on the same screen, passengers get a 15-minute range. When the customer's ride is within the pickup time range, they will get a notification reminding them of the ride. Uber does not charge a special cancellation fee, but the usual cancellation fees for any ride are relevant. At least Uber drivers don't suffer the outcome of cancellations the same way as a Lyft driver. Uber states that their rates are dependent on the time of pickup, which is sensible and reasonable. The customer understands that rates are dynamic and can change during the day. This way the customer has no real idea what this ride will cost until the moment of the pickup. Drivers of Uber don't see the scheduled rides at the time of booking, the system stores them in the memory and then releases them some minutes before the ride should take place. Drivers, treat the request as a standard request, which means all the same rules apply.

  3. Ratings were always an issue since passengers never truly understood the algorithm used to calculate rides. After a lot of negative reactions and complaints, Uber joined ranks with their drivers and started to educate riders about the rating system. One of the many issues facing drivers is how riders rate them. Previously ratings were a big mess, causing many drivers issues with low ratings even when giving perfect rides. This was due to the rider's lack of understanding how rides were rated. This article is another step in improving rider understanding of how ratings work.

    The app now shows the rider a simplified screen with the driver's photo and five stars. When a rider rates less than five stars they will be prompted to pick out a reason from a list of boxes under the five stars. If the definition of the problem is not amongst the boxes, then the rider is prompted to press other and give a brief description of why the driver didn't deserve five stars.

    The new system requires riders to put feedback for four stars and below, and the riders feedback will be saved in the rider feedback section of the rating feature in the app. Also, riders will not see their updated rating until they have rated the driver, after inputting their rating of the driver they will be able to see their rating, which provides for honest feedback.

    The new feature will become a mandatory part of the app, so riders will now have to rate their drivers, and as such, ratings will start to reflect the true nature of the driver's service. If the reason for a lower rating is a technical issue and not a driver's problem, then the rating will not be reflected in the drivers overall rating. Another big change will the software's capability to recognize riders that give constant bad ratings. These riders will continue to be able to rate, but their ratings will be ignored, and not included in the drivers overall rating status.