By SHEETAL SINGH
Ride-share company Uber has rolled out two new features on its app in a bid to make rides more lucrative for drivers, and safer for its customers.
The first update enables Uber and UberEats customers to tip their drivers.
Unlike the 25 percent commission taken by the company for trip fares, the tips are paid directly to the drivers.
Passengers are prompted to rate their driver at the end of their ride and, at the same time, the app asks if they would like to tip and leave a compliment.
Customers can tip their drivers $1, $3 and $5 or a custom amount between $1 and $50.
Uber driver and university student Ashok Chaudhary said customers did not warm to the new feature at first, but he was now regularly receiving tips and had made almost $50 extra so far.
“When it started, it wasn't that popular, but now customers are eager to tip,” Mr Chaudhary said.
“When I am regularly tipped, I can work less hours and focus more on my assignments,” he said.
In a media statement, Uber Australia Head of Drivers Lucas Groeneveld wrote the tipping feature provided the opportunity for customers to express a higher level of appreciation for their drivers beyond a five-star rating.
“Sometimes [riders] want to do more to say thanks to the staff who go above and beyond,” Mr Groeneveld wrote.
However, Uber Eats customer Nicole James said she generally does not tip because the food is already expensive.
“I already feel as though I'm paying way too much money for the meal I'm receiving, although I realise this isn't the Uber driver’s fault,” Ms James said.
Despite this, she recently tipped a driver because he was cheerful, provided good customer service and reminded her of her grandfather.
“I think him [the driver] being past retirement age and delivering food for people so happily really tugged at my emotions,” Ms James said.
Uber has also installed a panic button on its app within what it calls the ‘safety toolkit'. This function allows the rider to direct-dial emergency service dispatch Triple 0 from the app.
The feature can be accessed by pressing a shield symbol on the app during the ride.
Frequent Uber customer Eman Malik said she has never had to use the feature, but it was reassuring to know it is available.
“I definitely feel safer, particularly at night,” Ms Malik said.
According to an April 2019 study by The Roy Morgan Research Institute, more than 3.4 million Australians now use Uber.