Uber is adding a bunch of new fees to sweeten the pot for drivers who may be reluctant to wait for slow passengers, drive longer distances for more out-of-the-way pickups, or get hit with trip cancellations at the last minute. That means some trips may become a little more expensive for passengers — especially those who live far away or take a little longer than usual to get in the car.
It’s an acknowledgment that the job of driving begins long before the rider gets into the car, and that some trips, especially suburban ones, don’t feel fair from an earnings perspective, said Aaron Schildkrout, head of driver product at Uber. These new surcharges are aimed “precisely at solving those pain points,” he said.
Some drivers have told Uber’s product team that long trips “can feel like a gamble,” especially if that trip only lasts a few blocks, Schildkrout said. Starting today, drivers will now earn standard time and distance rates on the way to a long pickup, in addition to the standard fare. “So if it’s a 40-minute pickup, which hopefully never happens and is extremely rare, it would be some segment of 40 minutes,” he said.
Uber says the decision on when those charges will kick in depends on the market and the length of the pickup. But in general, drivers will start to earn standard time and distance rates after eight or 11 minutes of driving to pick up the rider, depending on the city. One example provided by Uber was an extra charge of $5.77 for a 4.2-mile pickup that took 11.2 minutes of driving. Riders will see long pickup fees as part of their upfront fare on trips, with an estimated long pickup fee showing in the fare breakdown. In other words, Uber’s algorithm will guess how long it will take your driver to get to your location, and then charge you based on that guess.
Riders may balk at the pricier trips, but Schildkrout says it’s aimed at solving a problem for them as well. “It’s not always as easy to get a car in the suburbs as it is in the city,” he said. “Even in the outskirts of a city people sometimes have this experience. So from a driver’s perspective, it’s easy to see why this makes sense: you’re more likely to forgo trips with long ETAs... With this change, we hope to make those long trips more worth drivers’ while. And for riders, we hope this means they’ll able to get a ride reliably where ever they are.”
Uber is also updating its cancellation policy to peg the fee to time and distance. Uber thinks this will advantage both riders and drivers. Riders who get matched with a driver who then refuses to move will end of paying less in cancellation fees, while drivers who travel long distances for a pickup only to get hit with a last-minute cancellation will earn more.
“We’ve updated our technology to actually detect progress by the driver toward the rider so we can be more nuanced about when to charge a rider a cancellation fee,” Schildkrout said.
Riders will also be charged extra for making drivers wait longer than two minutes. This is an extension of a pilot that started last year in New York City, New Jersey, Phoenix, and Dallas. Those fees will also vary, but in an example provided by Uber, a wait time of three minutes and 45 seconds would cost a driver $0.86 in added costs.
The announcement is the latest in Uber’s “180 days of change” effort aimed at improving relations with drivers, that kicked off with the inclusion of a tipping option for drivers in the app. Other new features include allowing drivers to message riders in the app, and additional layers of feedback for bad ratings.