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Uber adds option to tip drivers as it heads in new direction

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Uber is enabling passengers to tip its U.S. drivers with a tap on its ride-hailing app for the first time, part of a push to recast itself as a company with a conscience and a heart.

Besides the built-in tipping option announced Tuesday, Uber is giving drivers an opportunity to make more money in other ways too.

Riders will be charged by the minute if they keep an Uber car waiting for more than two minutes. Uber also is reducing the time that riders have to cancel a ride to avoid being slapped with a $5 fee from five minutes to two minutes after summoning a driver.

Uber won’t take any part of the tips given drivers. The San Francisco company will continue to collect a portion of ride-cancellation fees, as well as the new waiting-time charges.

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The tipping option, long available in the app of Uber rival Lyft, will be available beginning Tuesday in three cities — Seattle, Houston and Minneapolis. Uber plans to make it a staple in its app in all U.S. cities by the end of July. The other features will roll out in August.

The attempt to smooth over its sometimes testy relationship with drivers is part of a broader effort to reverse the damage done to Uber’s reputation by revelations of sexual harassment in its offices, allegations of trade secrets theft and an investigation into its efforts to mislead government regulators.

“These drivers are our most important partners, but we haven’t done a very good job honoring that partnership,” said Rachel Holt, regional general manager for Uber in the U.S. and Canada. Holt is part of the leadership team running Uber with CEO Travis Kalanick on a leave of absence.

The expanded earnings opportunities are the first step in what Uber is billing as “180 days of change” for its U.S. drivers. Holt declined to describe what is planned during the rest of the campaign.

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