Uber adds tipping to its app as it tries to make broader changes to its culture –




Amid an effort to turn around its brand, Uber Technologies Inc. said Tuesday that it has added a tipping option to its app, starting in Seattle, Minneapolis and Houston.

The company it will add more cities in the coming weeks to eventually make tips available in all cities by the end of July. Adding tipping is just part of an 180-day plan Uber announced Tuesday, as it seeks to ingratiate itself to drivers and as it works to revamp its culture after a series of scandals that have plagued the company this year.

Uber had been criticized by drivers for not including a tip option in its app, while its competitor Lyft and others already had the option.

“Why now? Because it’s the right thing to do, it’s long overdue, and there’s no time like the present,” Uber said in a blog post.

The Independent Drivers Guild, a union that represents 50,000 ride-hailing drivers in the New York City area, had been pushing for a tipping option in the app. After the union submitted a petition with 11,000 signatures calling for tipping, New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission announced a proposal to require tipping on ride-hailing apps in the city.

“Today’s tipping announcement is an important win for drivers and proves that thousands of drivers coming together with one voice can make big changes. Cuts to driver pay across the ride-hail industry have made tipping income more important than ever,” said Jim Conigliaro Jr., founder of the Independent Drivers Guild.

A Lyft spokesman reached out to say the company supports tipping in ride-hailing apps.

“This is fantastic news for drivers. Lyft is closing in on 1,800 days of in-app tipping,” the spokesman said.

So far Uber’s 180-day plan includes a shorter cancellation window, in which drivers receive a fee after two minutes instead of five, a paid per-minute rate if the driver waits more than two minutes for the ride, an additional $2 added to the base fare if the driver has a teenager as a passenger and driver injury protection insurance.

Uber said it would make “major improvements” for drivers every month for the next six months.

Uber is making these changes after its chief executive Travis Kalanick announced he was taking a leave of absence last week. The changes were announced by Aaron Schildkrout, head of driver product at the company and Rachel Holt, regional general manager of Uber’s U.S. and Canada operations.

Kalanick announced his leave of absence as a report from former Attorney General Eric Holder called for a revamp of the company’s culture and a pressing need to hire a chief operating officer. The report came after a former Uber engineer wrote a post outlining harassment she had faced at the company,

In addition to reported harassment, this year Uber has faced a #deleteuber campaign from consumers, a lawsuit from Alphabet Inc. GOOG, -0.70% GOOGL, -0.64%  over its self-driving car technology and a criminal investigation into a software program that reportedly helped drivers avoid government officials.