Uber Wants to Help Driv­ers Find Cheaper Gas, and a Loo

Co is bet­ting that the changes will in­crease its own rat­ing among driv­ers

The Economic Times - - Around The World -

BIZ CAR­SON

Be­ing an Uber driver gives you a lot of free­dom as an in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tor, but it also comes with a lot of headaches.

Taxes are ex­tra com­pli­cated to re­port. And there’s no health in­surance from the job, so you have to ar­range that your­self.

Uber, though, is try­ing to po­si­tion it­self as a driver’s best friend by fo­cus­ing first on their ba­sic needs. And yes, that in­cludes potty breaks.

This week, Uber driv­ers will see a roll­out of changes to their app, in­clud­ing a new gas finder fea­ture. While the driver app nor­mally shows the map of the city, in­clud­ing a hon­ey­comb map of where prices are surg­ing, the com­pany is adding new gas icons that map out where driv­ers can stop to re­fuel. Each icon shows a re­cent gas price, thanks to a few strate­gic part­ner­ships, so driv­ers know if driv­ing a cou­ple ex­tra blocks will re­sult in bet­ter gas sav­ings. That’s just the start. The com­pany is also work­ing on other projects that could ad­dress some ba­sic needs of its driv­ers.

In­spired by a hackathon project co­de­named ‘Poober’, Uber is ex­plor­ing adding driver-friendly bath­rooms to the map. This could

then open the door to cof­fee shops and restau­rants be­ing added to the map. And all of th­ese could be lever­aged into part­ner­ships, so Uber driv­ers get a dis­count in re­turn for the com­pany fea­tur­ing the restau­rant on the map.

It’s all part of a brew­ing war be­tween ride-hail­ing com­pa­nies as they fight over keep­ing driv­ers on the road.

THE PLAY FOR DRIV­ERS

This week, a new “driver re­wards” sec­tion will also ap­pear in the app so Uber’s part­ners can eas­ily ac­cess the dis­counts.

Be­cause Uber driv­ers are in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors, the com­pany doe­shave­to­be­care­fulin­how­much in­for­ma­tion it gives them. For ex­am­ple, the health­care sec­tion only links to Stride Health, which shows op­tion for health plans. The com­pany doesn’t (and can’t) man­date the driv­ers use it though. A deal with AT&T and Ver­i­zon means driv­ers can get 20% off their data bill, even if it is a fam­ily plan. For Uber driv­ers who do more than 100 rides a month, Uber can also send them a fuel card to use and have it au­to­mat­i­cally de­ducted from their pay­check and in­clude gas costs on their tax in­for­ma­tion. Also com­ing soon will be the Instant Pay op­tion to get paid when­ever you want to cash out. For now, this sends money to a speci­ficGoBankdeb­it­card,bu­tin­early May,Uber­willad­dtheop­tionofhav­ing it sent di­rectly to a driver’s debit card for a 50 cent fee.

Small changes like Fuel Finder make a dif­fer­ence when a driver is in un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory, and Uber is bet­ting that th­ese changes will in­crease its own rat­ing among driv­ers.

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