Uber has experienced a fair amount of friction with its drivers over the past few years, but the ride-hailing company has been working to mend those relationships.
It instituted "180 days of change" in June, in which itto help drivers, and now it's continuing that effort with a more permanent fixture. Uber is launching a Driver Advisory Forum designed to help counsel the company on how to do better by drivers.
The forum will be made up of a group of drivers Uber will fly to its headquarters in San Francisco twice a year to meet with company's CEO and other members of its executive team. During these meetings, drivers will be encouraged to speak about the issues most important to them. The first meeting is set for Jan. 16.
"We're focused on formalizing the way we integrate driver feedback to really make their voice a part of everything we do at Uber," Rachel Holt, Uber's vice president of operations and marketing in the US and Canada, said in an interview. It's "going to help ensure our priorities are aligned with drivers in the months and years ahead."
Since its founding in 2009, Uber has steadily grown to become one of the world's largest ride-hailing services -- with roughly 2.5 million drivers in about 75 countries. In May, it completed its five billionth ride. But with that growth, Uber's relationship with drivers had become tenuous.
Drivers, longer working hours and no support. They also filed lawsuits, quit driving for the company or switched to rival Lyft. It reached a boiling point earlier this year after a leaked video showed former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick . After that, Uber pledged to with drivers.
"We absolutely believe and recognize that drivers are unbelievably important to Uber working," Holt said. "And that's incredibly fundamental to our success and our riders having a reliable service."
In June, Uber launched 180 days of change, which ended in November. Now, moving into 2018, the company is creating the Driver Advisory Forum and also adding a couple of other new features. One is "in-app feedback," which lets drivers suggest improvements anytime. Uber says it'll review all feedback and use it to continually introduce new features.
Uber is also launching out an "Early Tester program" for a select group of drivers to try new features and updates before they're rolled out widely. This group of drivers will be able to give feedback on whether or not those features are helpful.
Lyft has run a driver advisory group for more than a year. It formed its Driver Advisory Council in May 2016 to give Lyft executives and team leaders feedback on being a driver. This council is made up of representative drivers from all regions of the US who get to test new features and make suggestions to the company.
Before now Uber has worked with drivers too. In New York City, Uber management meets several times a year with drivers who are members of the Independent Drivers Guild In these meetings, drivers discuss changes to the app, new policies and other Uber-related issues.
Now, with the the Driver Advisory Forum, Uber will get to hear from drivers across the US.
"As we look to the future, we really want to be more clear in our commitments," Holt said. "For us, this is really about building the best possible experience for drivers and with drivers."
First published Dec 12, 9 a.m. PT
Update, 1:38 p.m.: Adds information on Lyft's Driver Advisory Council and Uber's work with the Independent Drivers Guild.
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