Uber is announcing a few notable changes today, starting with a new feature that allows drivers to offer an additional layer of feedback to unruly riders. Working off the assumption that no one likes IRL confrontation, drivers can now choose from a preselected list of reasons to explain why they rated a passenger as less than five stars. So the next time you take too long getting in the car, or you have a loud phone conversation in the back seat, you'll be hearing about it from your Uber driver.
The update will ask drivers "what went wrong" if they select a four-star rating or less. They can then choose from a list of reasons: "wait time," "patience," "number of riders," "attitude," "wanted new route," or "other." If a rider gets the same "tag" twice within 30 days, a notification will appear when they open the Uber app to let them know that their behavior is affecting their rating.
According to Uber, drivers often complain that poor rider behavior can be a major cause of stress, especially during UberPool trips. Drivers have always been able to rate riders after the trip, but now they will be able to leave specific feedback that Uber can then surface to riders so they can improve their rating. Whether riders take the criticism to heart or dismiss it as patronizing, though, remains to be seen.
Oh, the irony
The irony, of course, is that Uber is announcing this new feature at a time when its own reputation has suffered from series of damaging, self-inflicted controversies and scandals. A cascading series of reports of a toxic workplace, hostility toward its female employees, secret programs to evade the authorities, and more have served to blunt the startup's momentum. The company's new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, was forced to publicly apologize for Uber's many transgressions after London officials declined to renew the company's license to operate in that city.
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These changes are part of the company's overall "180 days of change" apology tour that it hopes will help shore up its relations to its drivers and riders. (Previous announcements have included a tipping option for drivers and more freedom to decline trips.) Uber sent an email outlining the changes to drivers today, signed by Uber's general manager for the US and Canada, Rachel Holt, and head of driver experience, Aaron Schildkrout.
Most of the changes announced today relate to UberPool, a service that's seen by many at Uber as core to the company's mission of improved transportation, but has been plagued by poor feedback from riders and drivers. Riders are lured in by cheaper fares, only to become aggravated by frequent detours to pick up new passengers. Drivers complain that UberPool often means more work without necessarily more pay.
An additional flat fare for each added passenger
To help sweeten the load for drivers, Uber will now offer an additional flat fare for each added passenger they pick up during an UberPool trip. Uber says it will be shouldering a meaningful portion of the added cost of these trips through a reduction of the service fee the company applies to each trip. Still, the upfront fare a rider receives on an UberPool trip will be the fare he or she pays, regardless of whether there are additional pickups or not. The pickup fare will range from $0.50 (in Miami) to $1.00 (in San Francisco), depending on the city. Assumedly, this is because the demand for UberPool is higher in San Francisco than Miami.
Uber is also rolling out a feature that it's been testing in select cities to improve routing for UberPool trips. Previously, the app would direct drivers to take expressways and other routes that were perceived to be faster, despite an increased number of turns. Now drivers will be directed to more direct routes with "20 percent fewer turns," Uber says. Also, riders will be prompted to walk to the closest corner or intersection for more convenient pickups, to further reduce the number of turns drivers have to take.
The same goes for drop-offs, where UberPool riders are being let out at a proximate corner rather than the exact address of their destination. Uber calls it "dynamic drop-offs," but the result is pretty plain. If you want those cheaper carpool fares, you're going to have to be cool with a lot more walking.