Business, Finance & Economics

Uber Is Paying For Drivers To Go To College

You are definitely well aware of the fastest and growing ride and cab service Uber and surely have used it’s service. The company is now going more concerned about their drivers and wants them to make a huge benefit of it.

Drivers have been complaining for years that as Uber’s valuation goes up, their earnings go down. The ride-hailing platform is now offering its most devoted and best-rated drivers an opportunity to not only make more money, but also pursue a college education–gratis.

The new program, called Uber Pro, is a four-tiered rewards system that enables drivers to earn 3.5%-6% more on rates as well as cash back at gas stations, and 25% off car repairs. The top echelon of drivers, ranked “platinum” and “diamond,” have the opportunity to take classes at Arizona State University for free. Classes are online only, can be taken at any point during the week in order to fit into a driver’s schedule, and can be used toward a degree.

Uber is going to cover online college tuition costs and offer other perks like discounted fuel to its top drivers as part of a new program called Uber Pro that launches Thursday in eight markets.

“Drivers earn status by getting points and by giving great service — those unlock status,” Daniel Danker. “We want to recognize commitment from drivers.”

Under the Pro program, drivers will be ranked in three tiers — gold, platinum, and diamond. For platinum and diamond drivers who’ve driven more than 3,000 rides with Uber, the ride-hail company will cover the cost of tuition for Arizona State University’s (ASU) online program — for children, spouses, and parents as well. Those drivers, along with others ranked in the gold tier, will also be eligible for other perks — discounted fuel and car maintenance, and shorter wait times to pick up passengers at lucrative locations like airports.

Uber Pro drivers will receive 5% fuel discounts at any gas station, and 6.5% at ExxonMobil stores. Twenty-five percent discounts on car maintenance will be provided through CarAdvise, an online auto repair shop network.

In a coauthored Arizona Republic op-ed, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Arizona State University President Michael Crow said they hope Uber Pro will provide “a model of how business and academia can leverage knowledge, technology and scale to help more people gain the skills they need to advance in their lives, serve their families and communities, and contribute to the betterment of society.”

The program will be tested first in Seattle, Chicago, New Orleans, New Jersey, Orlando, Tampa, Phoenix, and Denver. Drivers in these markets who would have qualified for Uber Pro in the last three months will automatically be added to it.

Qualification for different Uber Pro tiers is based on the number of points drivers amass by completing trips. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that Uber is encouraging drivers to treat the platform as a full-time job; half the drivers who currently qualify for Pro drive fewer than 30 hours per week, the company said.

In order to be eligible for Uber Pro, drivers must maintain a customer rating of 4.85 and above. Should they drop below that threshold, they’ll be given a chance to raise their score. But if a driver falls below a 4.75 rating for any reason, they’ll be disqualified from the program. Uber declined to say what the current average customer rating is for all drivers, but noted that a 4.85 score is “really achievable for these drivers.”

The program is being rolled out at a time in which driver retention is a growing challenge for ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft. Uber has long used behavioral economic strategies like bonuses and surge notifications to encourage drivers to spend more time on the platform; Uber Pro is in some ways an extension of this gamification, aimed at making drivers more loyal.

When the new app launched, Khosrowshahi gave a keynote speech that had a middling reception. “He lost some credibility with drivers though by ignoring all of the major issues that drivers care about. Low pay, high expenses and Uber’s growing commission due to upfront pricing are consistently at the top of the list for driver pain points and a new driver app isn’t really what drivers have been asking for,” wrote Harry Campbell, founder of the Ride Share Guy Blog, a site that extensively covers driver concerns and changes to apps like Lyft and Uber, following the announcement. Campbell has been vocal about driver expenses rising faster than rates for rides.

Again and again, drivers want to more value out of the platform. This latest announcement is a direct response to that complaint.

Uber’s App For Drivers Earlier

The new driver app reflects Uber’s efforts to address this. For example, some drivers, especially in “emerging markets,” were having trouble ending rides after dropping off passengers in areas with poor cellular data. This is a costly error to correct for riders, and prevents drivers from moving on to the next ride, Yamashita explained. The new app uses GPS tracking to correct this bug.

The biggest change for drivers is that the new app will be putting earnings data front and center; whether a driver has daily goals, weekly goals, or wants to track their progress on earning Uber incentives, that information is now more readily available in the new app, whereas before it was only available via a website, Yamashita said. (Sabri said one of the market-specific discoveries in the research process was that Cairo drivers don’t want their earnings featured prominently in the app, out of fear that “if people see your good fortune, it could create bad luck for you,” so Uber engineers created a privacy functionality as well.)

Yamashita said drivers Uber met with around the world were excited by the attention from the company. But driver chatter in forums like (“Just a diversion from the real problems,” and “Since when was the app the problem?”) suggests what drivers really want is higher prices, not new features, and that Uber still has a lot of work to do in terms of making drivers happy.

“When I came to Uber, the board brought me on because they wanted change. When I presented to the board about what my intentions were, they were that we need to change as a company. And not just change what we’re doing, but also to listen,” Khosrowshahi told the crowd of drivers on Tuesday. “We hope we’re going to deserve the partnership we’re talking about going forward.

SOURCE – Buzzfeednews


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