Uber unveils host of features to appease drivers

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In spite of experimenting with self-driving vehices, Uber wants its human drivers to know it still cares about them.

That’s why the company announced several new features today designed to make the lives of drivers a little bit easier. Fittingly, the announcement was made on a new blog called Behind the Wheel, specifically dedicated to the “latest news, tips, and tales of driving with Uber.”

The first feature, Driver Destinations, lets drivers input their destination twice a day so that Uber will only send requests that fit with that route. The idea is that drivers will use this once while they’re on the way to work and once on the way home. “Destinations” has been available at least in the Bay Area since November, but Uber says it will launch in over a dozen U.S. cities with global launch coming soon.

It’s worth pointing out that Lyft offered this feature over a year before Uber.

Additionally, in U.S. cities and abroad, Uber will be piloting a new feature drivers can use to “pause requests.” Whether they’re done for the day or just want to take a break, the feature allows drivers to stop accepting new ride requests without having to literally decline requests, which can work against them in Uber’s algorithms. It’s surprising something this simple didn’t exist all along—just another reminder of the massive “startup’s” growing pains.

In regard to trip experiences, Uber will also be expanding a feature to a dozen U.S. cities this month that pays drivers if they wait over two minutes for a passenger at the pickup location. After the allotted two minutes, Uber charges the passenger a per minute rate (that varies by city) until they get into the car. Uber says riders tend to be more prompt in cities where this feature has been tested.

Aside from features related to giving trips, drivers may also welcome new enhancements on the backend.

In March, Uber partnered with Green Dot Corporation to launch Uber Checking by GoBank. Any drivers who signed up for the account would be able to receive instant payments for their Uber rides, as opposed to waiting several days. Uber says the service is now available in all U.S. markets.

The company has also committed to expand the availability of local Uber staff in case drivers need assistance with anything. The Uber Greenlight locations, formerly known as Partner Support Centers, are today available in over 250 locations worldwide.

Finally, Uber is launching a pilot in a few cities to offer its drivers the perk of Uber discounts. In the pilot, drivers get 15 percent off an uberX ride for every 10 rides they complete in a week and 50 percent off an UberBLACK ride for every 20 trips completed. Not too shabby.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to improve the driver experience,” wrote Maya Choksi and Ryan Fujiu, product managers for Uber, in the blog post. “In recent months we piloted in-app phone support and launched Fuel Finder to make it easier for drivers to save money at the pump. And we’re glad that so many drivers continue to take advantage of fuel discounts, savings on cell phone plans, and discounts on oil changes and maintenance through our driver rewards program.”

All this fanfare makes me feel like those self-driving cars are a little further from world domination than I previously thought.

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