Uber adds option to tip drivers as it heads in new direction

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Uber is enabling passengers to tip its U.S. drivers with a tap on its ride-hailing app for the first time, part of a push to recast itself as a company with a conscience and a heart.

Besides the built-in tipping option announced Tuesday, Uber is giving drivers an opportunity to make more money in other ways too.

Riders will be charged by the minute if they keep an Uber car waiting for more than two minutes. Uber also is reducing the time that riders have to cancel a ride to avoid being slapped with a $5 fee from five minutes to two minutes after summoning a driver.

Uber won’t take any of the tip money. The San Francisco company will continue to collect part of ride-cancellation fees, as well as the new waiting-time charges.

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The tipping option, long available in the app of rival Lyft, will be available beginning Tuesday in Seattle, Houston and Minneapolis. Uber plans to make it a staple in all U.S. cities by the end of July. The other features will roll out in August.

The attempt to smooth over its sometimes testy relationship with drivers is part of a broader effort to reverse damage done to Uber’s reputation by revelations of sexual harassment in its offices, allegations of trade secrets theft and an investigation into efforts to mislead government regulators.

“These drivers are our most important partners, but we haven’t done a very good job honoring that partnership,” said Rachel Holt, regional general manager in the U.S. and Canada. She is part of the leadership team running Uber while CEO Travis Kalanick is on leave.

The expanded earnings opportunities are the first step in what Uber is billing as “180 days of change” for its U.S. drivers. Holt wouldn’t reveal the rest of the campaign.

While building the world’s biggest ride-hailing service over the past eight years, Uber developed a reputation for cutthroat tactics…

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