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Uber overhauls driver app, to do better by drivers

After a contentious relationship in the past, the ride-hailing company is now working with drivers to add what they want to its redesigned app.

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Uber's redesigned driver app has a bunch of new features, including an earnings tracker and a way for drivers to better showcase themselves in their profile.

Uber

It's been two years since Uber redesigned its app for drivers. Back then, the ride-hailing company brainstormed about what it thought drivers would want, launched the revamped app and then hoped for the best, said Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

Now the company is doing things a little bit differently -- it's letting drivers weigh in.

Uber on Tuesday announced a major overhaul to its driver app. The new features, which include a real-time earnings tracker and a status bar with updates on market conditions, come after months of conversations and interviews with drivers.

"We knew we couldn't take the approach we'd taken in the past," Khosrowshahi wrote in a blog post Tuesday. "Instead we needed to listen to what drivers told us they needed, and shape the new app alongside them."

Khosrowshahi has been wrestling with a range of issues beyond driver relations since he came on as CEO in August. Uber is still reeling from the fallout of 2017, which saw a multitude of scandals around workplace sexual harassment; five federal investigations; and a data breach that affected 57 million drivers and riders. Last month, the company came under fire after one of its self-driving cars hit and killed a pedestrian in the first known fatal crash involving an autonomous vehicle.

Uber CEO: 'Drivers are the heart of our service'

As for drivers, Uber has experienced a contentious relationship with them in the past. Drivers have protested over steadily lower pay, longer working hours and little to no customer support. They've also filed lawsuits, quit driving for the company or switched to rival Lyft, which has been seen as the friendlier ride-hailing service.

Over the past year, Uber's been working to make things right.

"Drivers are the heart of our service. But along the way, we lost sight of that," Khosrowshahi wrote. "We focused too much on growth and not enough on the people who made that growth possible. We called drivers 'partners,' but didn't always act like it."

In June, Uber rolled out an initiative called "180 Days of Change" that added 40 new features aimed at boosting drivers' earnings and making their jobs easier. Khosrowshahi said Tuesday that 180 Days is just the first step in mending relationships with drivers.

"While 180 Days was about correcting missteps of the past, we also needed to think longer term, and the obvious place to start was the Driver app," he said. "It sits at the center of the driver experience, but after a redesign two years ago, it was already showing its age."

The new app went through four months of testing and 100,000 trips to get nailed down. Khosrowshahi even drove for a couple of test rides. With the help of drivers, Uber's engineers found and fixed 4,000 bugs in the app. 

New features include letting drivers know how much they made on their last trip while tracking their earnings throughout the day and week. The app also sends drivers notifications on upcoming earning opportunities, as well as feedback from their riders and information about their account.

Khosrowshahi said that this app redesign is just the beginning and that Uber will continue to improve it and add new features that drivers request. 

"It's going to be about listening to you," Khosrowshahi told a group of drivers during a livestreamed event on Tuesday. "So that you're treated as partners in more than just in name."

First published April 10, 10:00 a.m. PT. 
Update, 11:45 a.m.: Adds comment from Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi at a livestreamed event and additional background information.

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