Tensions have long simmered between Uber and its drivers who power the ride-hailing service. Drivers held protests when Uber cut fares with little warning and have filed class-action lawsuits to be recognized as company employees rather than independent contractors.
Uber is now trying to improve the experience of its drivers.
On Monday, the company announced a host of software improvements to its app to address driver demands. Among the changes, drivers can now more easily pause ride requests, making it easier for them to take bathroom breaks and fill their gas tanks. Drivers can now also be paid instantly for each ride they complete, rather than weekly, and see on the app’s dashboard how much they have earned.
The changes come after the recent settlement of a pair of class actions by drivers who wanted to be classified as full-time employees instead of contractors, a status that gives them few worker protections. Under the terms of the settlement, Uber said it would pay as much as $100 million to roughly 385,000 drivers.
After the settlement was announced, Uber also said it had agreed to support something akin to a union for its drivers in New York City. The association, called the Independent Drivers Guild, plans to create an official way for drivers to voice their concerns to the company and to provide some limited benefits and worker protections.
Among the many changes for drivers that Uber announced Monday was a partnership with companies that can give tax advice to drivers. Uber said drivers could now also receive discounts on Uber rides, auto maintenance and cellphone data plans.
In addition, Uber created a fuel finder function in the app that shows drivers the cheapest places nearby to fill the gas tank, with the aim that Uber can someday negotiate with filling stations to provide discounts to Uber drivers.
And the Uber app will automatically start timing a ride two minutes after arriving at a rider’s location so that drivers are paid if they have to wait for passengers. Tardy passengers are a frequent complaint on driver blogs.