Uber drivers helped to say ‘Gooday mate’ to riders

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Uber in Australia has formed a partnership with Caltex to give drivers cheaper petrol and an array of tools such as conversation starters to get ride chitchat flowing.

They were among initiatives announced for drivers by Uber in Sydney yesterday.

The Australian arm of the company also disclosed some statistics. Eighteen per cent of drivers are unemployed before joining Uber, 60 per cent are parents, and 10 per cent are over 55.

There are growing numbers of commuters who morph to Uber drivers going to and fro work, taking a passenger en route to earn lunch money.

Yesterday Uber announced a partnership with Caltex where drivers amass points for petrol discounts as part of its loyalty program.

Uber already offers drivers discounts at a health club chain, a car wash chain, discounted vehicle servicing and discounted phone plans with Optus. Discounts of 4 cents per litre for bronze status drivers to 8 cents a litre for platinum status drivers will apply to regular, diesel, and Vortex premium fuels.

Uber has costed savings through its partner program at more than $25 million per year.

NSW state manager Henry Greenacre also announced five new initiatives for drivers.

Drivers will be able to request a payout whenever they want using a feature called Flexpay. Funds would be in a driver’s bank account the next day.

Uber has extended its drivers destination feature that only offers riders only going in the direction a driver wants to head. That scheme will be extended so that drivers can set a time they arrive.

“What if you need to get to work at 9 o’clock or if you want to get home to have dinner with the kids by 6.30?”, Mr Greenacre said.

In practice, it will depend on Uber finding sufficient riders travelling in the same direction.

For drivers having trouble conversing with passengers, Uber is offering “conversation starters” .

“For me it would be something like where I grew up, my favourite touristy things to do in and around Sydney or did you see the absolute thrashing that NSW gave Queensland last weekend,” Mr Greenache said.

Happy riders will be able to leave drivers more detailed compliments.

Riders who mistakenly give the wrong pick-up point can now modify the pin on the map without cancelling a ride.

Uber also launched an “in app” chat platform called Intercom which lets drivers and riders talk and text anonymously without leaving the Uber app.

Mr Greenacre said drivers soon could send text messages to passengers which are automatically translated to their native language. “This is massive given how many international tourists we have around Sydney,” he said.

He said tourists wouldn’t need an overseas Australia number, they only had to be connected to the internet.

Mike Abbott, head of Uber operations ANZ, told The Australian that Uber was interested in connecting up its Australian services to Google Home, Amazon Echo and now Apple’s HomePod. You can already order an Uber by asking Siri on an iPhone in Australia. “We’ve got hundreds of people working on making the experience for riders better and better,” Mr Abbott said.

Uber however is not getting cheaper for riders in Australia. From Friday they will be hit with a 55 cent booking fee.

The minimum fare for a ride in Sydney will rise from $8 to $9 and there will be minimum fare increases across different Australian cities.

Uber also has introduce UberXL, a more expensive UberX service for up to 6 passengers in mini-vans and SUVs, and UberSelect, an entry level luxury service for up to 4.

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