One of the biggest new features is a way for drivers to specify a route on which they can pick up and drop off riders. This way, if a driver is already leaving the house with a location in mind, or going home, the Uber app will filter out any riders that aren't on their intended route. This addition has been tested in San Francisco for a while, but is beginning to see a wider rollout today.
The company is also letting drivers more easily end or pause their rider pick up requests. In the "current trips" section of the app, drivers will be able to toggle a slider to "go offline," letting them prevent incoming requests before their current trip ends. Uber hopes it'll let its drivers end their sessions before a rider hails their car, and potentially gives them a poor rating when the pick up is declined.
The update also supports the launch of Uber's fee system that charges riders for making a driver wait longer than two minutes at a pick up location. According to Uber, "In the cities where we’ve been testing this, we’ve seen that riders are more likely to be prompt." An expansion of its branded debit card -- intended to help drivers receive payments faster and better handle their finances -- is also rolling out concurrently with the new update.
Perhaps most interesting to those interested in driving for Uber, the company is offering discounted rides to all of its drivers. Those who complete 10 trips in a week will get a 15 percent discount on an UberX ride, and if they can complete 20 trips in one week the company will knock off 50 percent from one UberBLACK ride.
Uber has faced encroaching competition over the years from similar ride-hailing companies like Lyft, and has remained above water in the face of multiple class action lawsuits against the company. Most recently, a settlement was reached in two cases, where it was decided that Uber drivers would remain "independent contractors" and not "employees." Uber still had to pay $84 million to the approximately 385,000 drivers represented in the cases.
Looking forward, Uber has even announced entry into the self-driving car race happening in the industry. With testing occurring on the streets of Pittsburgh initially, the company aims to ultimately adapt the technology to eliminate the need for drivers from the service completely. Given the status of self-driving cars in the field, Uber's future goal is undoubtedly a ways off from being implemented.